Much has been written about protein lately. Just type it in on Google and you’ll find hundreds of pages about the benefits of proteins. So they are important for your muscles and give you a feeling of satisfaction, which is easy if you want to pay attention to your weight. All true, but what are protein? How many do you need? And how can you best eat them?
Proteins are one of the 3 macronutrients that make up our food, together with fats and carbohydrates. Proteins consist of so-called amino acids, of which there are 22 in total. There are many combinations possible so that there are thousands of different proteins. The body can make 13 of the 22 amino acids and has to make 9 out of food. We call these 9 so-called essential amino acids. And one of these 9 is even more important, of which later. Of all 3 macronutrients, proteins are the most important, because proteins are the building blocks of your cells and others mainly provide energy. Often, percentages of your full calorie intake are calculated, but I prefer to look at your protein intake based on your body weight and activity so that you get what suits you!
The nutrition center recommends 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day for adults. Since most of you have an active lifestyle, I recommend keeping 1gr / kg body weight for non-athletes. For the athletes, I make a distinction between strength athletes and endurance athletes because you also build muscle as an endurance athlete. An endurance athlete should, therefore, eat 1.4 g / kg and a strength athlete 1.8 g / kg. For an endurance athlete of 60kg this is 60 * 1.4 = 84gr protein per day and for a strength athlete even 108gr. As you can see, these are pretty nice quantities of protein.
Beyond this total amount of protein that you need per day, it is also important to look at the amount per meal. As mentioned above, there is one amino acid that is very important; Leucine. This is because Leucine is necessary to start protein synthesis, the process by which the proteins help your muscles recover. To start this process there is a so-called Leucine threshold, the threshold at which you have eaten enough Leucine to start it all. As a guideline, you can maintain 0.3gr / kg body weight per meal. So for someone of 60kg that is already 20gr of protein per meal. Always try to achieve this, otherwise, it is a waste of the proteins (and calories!).
In addition, it is also important to ensure that you extract the proteins from a complete amino acid profile. Examples of complete profiles are all animal products such as chicken, meat, fish, cheese, and dairy. For example: In a piece of the chicken breast of 100gr contains 23gr of protein and a cup of low-fat quark of 300gr is 22.5 grams. Sufficient for someone of 60 kg to get her Leucine threshold. For vegetarians and vegans, it is important that you maintain sufficient variation in your diet because plant proteins often do not have a full amino acid profile.
After your training
The time at which you eat the proteins is less important, it mainly concerns the quantities I mentioned above. However, it is advisable to always have a good meal with sufficient protein after training (think of the Leucine threshold). In this period after your training, your body needs the proteins the most. A good meal is sufficient, so a protein shake is not always necessary!
Okay fun all that technical talk, but now just as practical!
Achieve your daily protein intake, based on your body weight and sports activity (1gr / kg, not athletes, 1.4gr / kg endurance athletes, 1.8gr / kg strength athletes). In addition, ensure that each meal contains at least 0.3 g / kg of protein. Get these proteins from complete sources or combine sufficiently if you are a vegetarian/vegan. Always plan one of your meals shortly after your training.