Getting strong and lean involves two main ingredients: working out and eating well. But, the number one thing you should be eating more of if you want to maximize your results is protein.
A recent study of compared low protein (0.9g/kg/day) and highprotein (2.5g/kg/day) diets combined with weight training for women who were looking to change their physiques. By the of 8 weeks, the study found equal strength gains between groups. But, the highprotein group had a better body composition in the end!
Both groups lost about 1kg (2.2lbs) of fat, but the highprotein group gained more lean mass.
How much protein do you really need?
Canada’s Food Guide recommends 0.8g/kg/day. This is below the level eaten by the lowprotein group in the study. Why is that? Population level food guides are made for the whole population – rather than for individuals with specific goals.
So, how much do you need if your goal is to build an award winning physique? The right amount ofprotein to build muscle and lose fat lies somewhere in the middle of the low and highprotein groups.
A comparison of several studies found that 1.62g/kg/day is optimal for muscle growth with weight training. Additionalprotein will help you to hit your daily calorie goal, but may not provide any other direct benefit to the muscle mass and strength gains from strength training.
Easy ways to get more protein!
Increasing protein can sound like a challenge and be intimidating. Easy ways to increase your protein include:
- Protein powders: Get a couple of high quality protein powders that are low in sugar. There are many types of powders so pick a couple to try out and rotate them to prevent boredom and food sensitivities. Some options are vegan, whey, and beef isolate powders.
- Have more frequent meals: If you’re used to eating 2-3 meals a day, add a 4th and 5th meal.
- Replace your breakfast cereal: Start your day with steak and eggs or greek yogurt! These are some examples of cereal alternatives for breakfast.
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Campbell BI, Aguilar D, Conlin L, et al. Effects of High vs. Low Protein Intake on Body Composition and Maximal Strength in Aspiring Female Physique Athletes Engaging in an 8-Week Resistance Training Program. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Feb 6:1-21. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0389.
Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, et al A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults
Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 11 July 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608