Last Updated on January 7, 2021
Get the scoop on this essential macronutrient for optimal muscle gains and training performance.
We’re guessing you’re fond of protein shakes because they help repair and regrow damaged muscles. Score one for you. But aside from knowing that, do you think your knowledge about protein could fit into a shaker bottle?
If not, this Protein 101 refresher will help bring you up to speed. For a crash course, we turned to nutrition and fitness expert Lisa Lynn, frequent guest on NBC’s The Dr. Oz Show and author of The Metabolism Solution.
So, what is protein, anyway?
If you slept through health class and missed the definition of protein, you’re not alone. We asked Lynn to sum it up without going full Bill Nye on us. “Technically proteins are large molecules that consists of amino acids, and they make every cell in our bodies. So they’re the building block of muscle, and no bodily function can happen without it.”
Not consuming enough protein also means you no longer need to worry about weight loss or sculpting six-pack abs because you’re sabotaging your ability to A) fulfill your potential inside of the gym, and B) remain in good health.
“Without enough protein your body will start to pull fuel from places like your bones, organs, and heart. You won’t stay healthy for long,” she adds.
Why Is It Important To Consume Protein After A Workout?
When you’re in the gym rocking out Phil Heath’s quads routine you’re tearing muscle fibers with each grueling set. The protein you consume helps the muscles that were compromised recover quicker. This is why we recommend taking post-workout protein within an hour after your last set.
“Essentially, the protein helps take what was damaged and puts it all back together,” she says. “With a whey shake, the minute it enters the body a “quick-hit” of whey gets into cells and is then transported to repair and replace muscle tissue.”
Where Can I Get Me Some Protein?
Turkey, chicken, egg whites, fish and lean cuts of beef are quality sources of protein. But those aren’t your only options. “Veggies like peas have traces of protein, and nonfat cottage cheese is another good option,” Lynn says. “However, whey is the granddaddy of proteinbecause it’s fast-acting; whey shakes are lean and clean.”
If your goal is to get ripped, Lynn suggests reaching for a micro-filtered protein supp because the lactose (sugar) has been removed. This can help aid fat loss.
What Exactly is Whey?
It’s the watery byproduct from milk after it has been curdled and strained. From its origin, you’d expect it to taste…well, not so good. Thankfully, after egghead scientists add delicious flavors, that’s not the case. It actually tastes pretty darn good. Try any of these protein-packed, whey products and see for yourself.
How Much Protein Should I Consume?
The amount of protein you want to consume hinges on your fitness or weight loss goals. According to Lynn, a good way to project how much protein you should consume in grams is to aim for your target weight, not what you currently weigh.
“If you want to weigh 180 pounds, aim for 180 grams of protein to feed the muscle and starve the fat,” she suggests. “But do it in increments that your body can utilize.”
That would be 24 grams every two to three hours. Shoveling more than that down your gullet won’t help you get bigger or stronger; it’s simply a waste. Instead, space out your protein intake.
Can I Consume Too Much Protein?
Yep, you sure can. If you’re taking in too many calories (whether they be from protein, fat, or carbs) and you’re going to gain weight. With protein, going overboard can also lead to more unpleasant affects.
“Along with weight gain, overdoing it with your protein intake can lead to gastric distress and can be difficult on the kidneys,” she says. “It’s not about consuming, it’s about assimilating and utilization.”
Are All Proteins The Same?
Not by a long shot.
“If you had a list of biological values of how protein is broken down, whey would be at the top. And then dairy, and the rest fall underneath,” Lynn explains. “The pea and potato proteins aren’t terrible — let’s call them C-grade protein — but they’re not A-list. Whey protein is the best option and you should be paying at least $25 per pound. As expensive as that seams, it’s less expensive than inferior sources of food proteins.”