By The Clif Nutrition Advisory Council
This nutrient is essential to help you build, recover and repair muscles. But how much do you actually need?
Whether you’re training for a race, lifting heavy, or just flipping tires, your muscles are constantly being pushed to their limit. Every time you exercise, you break down muscle tissue, which then needs to be repaired and strengthened in the most efficient way, so you can test your grit all over again. This is where eating protein helps speed up recovery. Not just some protein, but a boatload specific to your body’s needs.
In general, athletes and active types require more nutrients, like protein and carbohydrates, than those who move less throughout the day. Studies show that if you fuel your body the right way – taking into account timing and food sources – you’ll prevent injures, recover faster, and perform better. Added bonus: Protein also promotes a strong immune system and normal organ function.
So, How Many Grams Daily?
In general, active people and athletes have the highest requirements. Endurance and strength training athletes, for example, need 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Your perfect protein number also depends on your body size as well as the type and length of your workouts. So if you weigh 140 pounds and lift weights a few times a week, you would multiply 140 by 0.5 grams for a total of 70 grams of protein per day.
“For my main meals I try to get at least 20-40 grams and then another 10-15 grams in each of my snacks,” said Spartan Elite Racer Rose Wetzel. “For breakfast it’s usually oatmeal with flax and chia seeds, almond milk, and a simple protein shake. I love leftovers for lunch and then one of my go-to dinners is a baked herbed chicken with roasted potatoes.”
Don’t bother busting out a calculator. Instead, use the CLIF® BUILDER’S® Protein Calculator. Just plug in your weight and activity for the day (cardio or weights), and you’ll get suggested protein intake in grams.
Protein-Pack Your Daily Meal
Your workouts may vary from day to day, but sports nutrition experts have a general protein ballpark that you should aim for at every meal: 20 to 30 grams. What does that look like? Here are a few recommendations:
33g: Three-egg omelet with a quarter cup of shredded American cheese
24g: Yogurt parfait made with a single-serving size nonfat Greek yogurt (0.6 cups) and two ounces of almonds
18g-35g: Smoothie made with a scoop of protein powder
30g: Two-cup serving of bean and meat-rich chili
35g: Salad topped with 4-ounce chicken breast
30g: Two hard-boiled eggs, a slice of sprouted grain bread topped with peanut butter, and one mini roll of cheese
24g: Grilled salmon burger
27g: Ground turkey lettuce wraps
22g: Stir-fry of zoodles (zucchini pasta) and tofu with a peanut dressing
Quick tip: Be sure to space protein-rich foods evenly throughout the day. While an extra lean steak or a chicken breast are an ideal source of protein, it’s not always convenient to carry around. Here are a few more popular protein-packed foods to help you hit your daily number.
“My favorite high-protein recipe is Chicken Adobo with quinoa and roasted kale,” Wetzel said. “I love it because I get protein from both the chicken and the quinoa, and the adobo sauce mixes nicely with the quinoa. I like to eat it on a day when I’m working my legs extra hard or when I do a heavy strength training day in the afternoon after a long run in the morning.”
|Food||Grams of Protein|
|6 oz. canned tuna||40|
|4 oz. chicken breast||35|
|3 oz. salmon||23|
|8 oz. yogurt||12|
|4 oz. tofu||10|
|8 oz. milk||10|
|1 cup beans||7|
|1 oz. nuts||6|
Timing is Everything
Strategically, timing your meals and snacks (and front-loading them with protein) will help your body adapt to workouts and enhance recovery, no matter what type of exercise you’re doing.
30 Minutes Before Your Workout: It’s important to have a light snack to prevent fatigue and improve performance. Try an apple or a pear with nut butter, a glass of chocolate milk, or a serving of chia pudding topped with nuts.
30 Minutes After Your Workout: It’s also key to replenish your muscles with protein and carbs within a half hour of exercise to stimulate muscle building and repair, and decrease muscle breakdown. Some great grab-and-go options are CLIF® BUILDER’S® bar with 20g of protein from soy and nut protein, turkey and cheese roll-ups, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or raise a glass of CLIF® Recovery Protein Drink Mix.
2 to 3 Hours After Exercise: Eat a balanced meal to ensure you’re filling up your nutrient tanks and replenishing muscle protein stores for the next 24 hours.
Before bedtime: If you’re really trying to pack on as much muscle as possible, some scientific research suggests consuming another 20g of complete protein before going to sleep, so that your body doesn’t spend as much time without muscle-repairing amino acids in the bloodstream.
The ideas and suggestions written above are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. The contents of this article are not intended to make health or nutrition claims about our products. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health- and nutrition-related activity.
This article is sponsored content produced by CLIF. CLIF is the Official Protein and Energy Bar of Spartan U.S. and a valued nutrition voice in the Spartan Community.