Is there such a thing as too much protein? It’s a good question especially at a time when it seems like everyone is talking about protein. It’s touted as essential for building muscle, and it is, but also as a weight loss strategy due to its ability to make you feel full. But, as with any good thing, there IS a such thing as too much.
According to WebMD.com, females only need about 46g per day while men require a bit more at 56g per day. If you workout regularly and are trying to build or maintain muscle, those numbers may seem low — it’s because they are! Those who lift regularly require a bit more protein to build mass but not much more. It’s recommended that resistance trainers take in .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. That’s often higher than the recommended daily allowance. Anything more than that and you aren’t reaping any more benefits; in fact, you may be hurting yourself, if you’re trying to build mass.
Protein is satiating, meaning it makes you feel full. This is why people who are trying to lose weight can benefit from loading up on protein. But, if you’re full, then you might not have the capacity to eat enough healthy carbohydrates and fats, two essential macronutrients needed for your body to function at optimum levels. If you’re trying to gain weight/muscle, you absolutely need to consume enough carbohydrates and healthy fats. Limiting protein to 1g per pound of body weight will absolutely help in this regard.
If you’re like me, you’re used to taking in a ton of protein. I enjoy those foods and find them easy to consume. I tend to feel bloated when eating carbs and fats are sometimes hard to keep in my diet without being really focused on it. It is a struggle for me to maintain balance! But, it’s super important if I want to gain. Carbs will provide the energy I need to power through the lifts and fats are essential to maintain hormonal balance, something peri-menopausal women need to stay healthy!
The best way to make sure you’re in right relationship with your three key macronutrients is to track what you’re taking in each day and adjust accordingly. I use Cronometer but MyFitnessPal is a good choice, as well. If you’re short on carbs or fats, try a healthy shake to load up and level off. I have a jug of Optimum Nutrition Serious Mass for those days I fall short on carbs. As for healthy fats, shakes are my go to. You can add chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp hearts, MCT oil, almond butter or avocado to load up on healthy fats. If you’re only a tiny bit short at the end of the day, try a whole grain toast with avocado or almond butter. That’s a good top off that should gain healthy carbs and fats and still let you fall asleep!
A note about tracking… at first it will seem like a chore but after a while it will become habit. It’s essential to ensuring you are meeting your goals. Very few of us can go with our instincts in this area – we will either eat more than we think or less and it’s even harder to make sure our protein/carb/fat ratios are correct. So, if you’re trying to gain muscle, here’s a formula to consider as a starting point for your own dietary needs:
Protein = 1g per pound: For me, that’s 93g but I have rounded it up to 100g to make it easy for me, plus it’s my goal to get back to 100 pounds (I’m down since quarantine without the heavy weights at home.)
Carbohydrates = 40 to 45% of total calories: For me, that’s 262g since my total calories are at 2,494 (my daily requirement according to my size and activity level is 1,994 but I am trying to gain so I’ve added 500 to that number). This level is 42% specifically for those who are counting!
Fats = 25 to 30% of total calories: For me, I’ve gone higher on fats because my body does better with higher fat. I’m not sure why and I continue to research to see if I can figure it out! So, I’m at 38% or 105g. Fats are 9g per calorie so for those who are watching their weight, you may want to go on the lower end of the fat percentage and go higher on carbs. But, try not to go over your bodyweight goal for protein.
This is just a start and my formula is specifically for gaining weight and mass. For those who are trying to lose, you can go a little higher on protein but not more than 25% of your overall caloric intake. You need the healthy carbs and fats, trust me! Your body will thank you!