Are you getting enough protein?

Whether you are healthy and staying active, or recovering from an injury, incorporating resistance training into your routine is paramount. In a recent article for High Country News, I wrote about the importance of resistance training over cardio activities for the benefits of injury prevention, building muscle mass, promoting cardiovascular health, bone and joint health, and promoting weight loss.  In addition to choosing the best activity to pursue, we also need to consider how we are fueling our body.

Overall nutrition is a much broader conversation that one should seek the expertise of a certified nutritionist for. However, for the purpose of this article, I just want to touch on the importance of protein for muscle recovery whether you are healthy or recovering from an injury and want to regain muscle strength and endurance.

Protein is the basic fuel required to maximize changes within a muscle. They are the building blocks of our body. Proteins are used to make muscles, tendons, organs and skin. As well, they create enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various molecules that serve many important functions in our body. The International Society of Sports Nutrition, (Jager et al 2017) cites that “an acute exercise stimulus, particularly resistance exercise, and protein ingestion both stimulate muscle protein synthesis and are synergistic when protein consumption occurs before or after resistance exercise”.  This means that the combination of protein and strength training results in a greater stimulation of muscle growth. The World Health Organisation’s recommended daily allowance of protein for US adults is 0.83 grams per kg of body weight per day. Recognize though, that this identifies the minimum recommendation. If you are actively strength training for the purpose of gaining muscle, including recovering from an injury, you may require more.  The International Society of Sports Nutrition (Jager 2017) states that for building and maintaining muscle mass, an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4-2 grams per kg of body weight per day is required. This would represent 98-140g of protein per day for a 70kg individual.

Getting enough protein at each meal is also important. According to Healthline, it is suggested that a 20-25g dose of high quality protein is sufficient to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Older adults have been shown to be less sensitive to smaller doses of protein after exercise compared to young adults. Therefore, a slightly higher intake of proteins per meal would be advantageous for older adults, such as 30-35g. It has been shown to be particularly beneficial to consume protein following resistance exercise as “skeletal muscle is sensitized to the effects of protein and amino acids for up to 24 hours after a bout of resistance exercise” (Get Back to Sport, 2020).

In summary, proteins are important for you! Again, to truly understand what is best for your individual needs and training program, please consult a registered nutritionist. This information is intended to touch on the importance of consuming enough protein for the many needs our body requires it for. Whether you are weight training for personal goals or rehabilitating from an injury – your goal is to increase muscle mass. To maximize all your hard work, you need to consume enough protein. Food for thought!

Jennifer Gordon (BSc.PT, GunnIMS, AFCI)