The fact that protein plays a central role in building muscle mass and in the context of a conscious diet can be read in any magazine nowadays. The awareness for the general intake of proteins is therefore definitely present. Especially for advanced athletes, the relevance is particularly high, but still often underestimated. Protein is therefore not only important, but also the correct supply quantity plays a major role. So how much should it be for whom and how can this be implemented?
Protein is essential
Of course, muscles consist of protein and therefore need this macronutrient in particular to maintain and further build up. However, the right ratio of quality and quantity is also important. A high-quality protein with a high biological value can be optimally absorbed by your body and converted into the body's own protein. However, if a single amino acid for the formation of a certain protein is missing in the body, it will not be formed.
For this reason, you should primarily consume appropriate protein sources or combine those with lower values so that the amino acid profiles of the foods complement each other. In other words, a higher amount of protein from different sources can compensate for a lower protein quality. This is especially relevant for plant-based protein sources, as they usually have a lower biological value. Thus, 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight from plant protein is not the same as from animal protein, which is why people on a (purely) plant-based diet benefit especially from higher protein amounts.
During a diet, the goal is to maintain hard-earned muscle while getting rid of fat reserves. However, since your body is in a generally catabolic state due to the lack of energy during the diet, these very valuable muscle proteins are at risk. Especially during high training intensities, long sessions as well as depleted glycogen stores, the metabolism "accidentally" also resorts to valuable muscle protein for energy production. Just then it makes sense to counteract by an additionally increased protein supply. Furthermore, higher amounts of protein in the diet also help you in other ways, since proteins have a high degree of saturation and also require energy for their own digestion and are therefore metabolized inefficiently. Thus, you can increase the amount of protein supplied during the build up in the diet a little more to protect your muscle mass efficiently and make your diet more effective.
Supplier of micronutrients
Protein, along with carbohydrates and fats, is an important macronutrient for your fitness and a balanced diet. Furthermore, foods that are good sources of protein also provide micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Thus, good sources of protein also serve as a supplier of other nutrients. Good examples include vitamins B12 and B6 from meat, calcium from milk and dairy products, omega-3 fats and iodine from (fatty) fish, or iron from lentils. Of course, all foods also contain micronutrients, but these rather critical representatives are found particularly reliably in good protein sources.
The best choice
A possibly somewhat trivial reason for increased protein intake is simply the lack of good alternatives. As we know, the human body can theoretically obtain energy from the macronutrients carbohydrates, fats, (alcohol) and just protein. While high protein intake can be problematic at most for preloaded excretory organs, such as the kidneys, and can be well compensated for by increasing the amount drunk, high amounts of fats and carbohydrates are rather detrimental to health. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates and fats leads to high blood sugar levels, increased blood lipids and promotes risk factors for the development of many diseases of civilization. A protein-emphasized diet leaves no room for an excess of other nutrients while maintaining total calories, thus automatically ensuring that a balanced diet is maintained.
How much protein can we eat?
So if we want to optimize our diet in terms of protein intake, we should know exactly how much of it we should be eating. While the German Nutrition Society recommends a minimum of 0.8g per kilogram of body weight for adults, current studies on athletes consider intakes of up to 1.6g / kg of body weight to be beneficial. So anyone who does intensive sports and wants to build up muscles should at least reach this mark. Beyond this limit, no further effect on muscle mass was found on average, but study results never make statements for the individual case, but only for a group.
Therefore, it is possible that your individual training and life situation requires more protein than the average study participant. This is especially likely if you are currently on an energy-reduced diet or are already training at an advanced level. This is because a high level of muscle mass also wants to be supplied with more protein in order to be maintained at all.
Therefore, it makes sense to use a safety supplement in these situations and again slightly increase the daily amount of protein. Often one reads of 2g / kg body weight as a guideline, which can be justified on the basis of the study situation also so. Further studies on the risk of high protein amounts could also confirm the safety of a long-term intake of 2g protein / kg body weight without side effects. Amounts of up to 3.5g / Kg body weight were also without side effects in highly trained subjects. Therefore, this amount is suitable for most exercisers, although higher amounts can be consumed in phases during a diet without problems.
Don't waste potential
Now that we know that protein is important and how much of it we need, it is the implementation of this knowledge that is most important. Because many exercisers know that a protein-rich diet is important for achieving athletic goals, but still unknowingly consume too little of it. Thus, it can quickly happen that the consumption of a hamburger is legitimized with the need for protein without knowing how much of it is actually contained. The protein amount of the evening pizza is booked according to the motto "will fit somehow" and the shake after the training saves the training successes anyway as if by itself.
So if you thought you were eating a protein-rich diet until now, you should definitely track your macronutrient intake to check your intake levels. At least for a while, you should be aware of how much protein you are actually taking in over the long term until you have a good feel for it.
However, even if you're feeding your individually optimal amount of protein with quality proteins, it's important to do this every day. Another pitfall of fitness nutrition is doing everything perfectly on some days and then not doing it as well on the following days. Many thus reach their protein goal only occasionally and give away parts of it at this point. The human body benefits from a constantly high protein intake, especially when trianing hard. So you should ask yourself if you reach your targeted protein amount EVERY DAY or only occasionally.
Protein is irreplaceable for a balanced diet, but especially for achieving athletic goals. For muscle building you should supply at least 1.6g / Kg body weight daily, with higher amounts up to 2g as a safety supplement is reasonable and safe. In a diet, proteins have a protective effect on the existing muscles on the one hand, and on the other hand support the saturation and the stimulation of the metabolism. Especially during a diet, the protein intake may therefore be even higher.
Many protein sources are also suppliers of important micronutrients and thus automatically support a healthy diet. Adherence to the intake recommendations is very easy for mixed dieters in most cases, whereby higher amounts and sensible combinations of proteins can buffer a lower biological value in the case of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.