A look of fear passes over their eyes. You’re going to make me eat more?! Then resistance, defiance even. If someone starts training, regularly, twice a week, from zero activity, the body is in shock. It needs sleep and quality fuel to adapt (and lots of stretching and Epsom Salt baths). You need the quality fuel to train so you can become fitter (more efficient heart and lungs), grow new muscles and gradually burn excess fat as your body becomes a leaner meaner machine.
But you can’t train on empty! The idea that you can simply burn the fat you have on your body and eat the same amount of food is a ‘diet’ mentality. Which is phasing out. Training for fitness, strength and health means eating seriously and employing long term changes not rapidly reducing calorie intake then increasing again after the ‘diet’ period has finished.
Protein intake must be increased to replenish and recover the muscles after training. This is critical. You work your muscles when you train: they tear and over the following 48 hrs are in recovery. The pain you experience after training is the process of your muscles rebuilding and growing and creating a more ‘toned’ body.
The amount you increase by is personal and you must become your own body expert as you start to take your physical person seriously. Listen to all experts but always take advice with a ‘pinch of salt’, be aware of your own quirks, integrate expert knowledge with your own understanding of your body. Experts are experts in a topic but you should be an expert on your own body. Someone you’ve never met before but is a trained professional is going to give the best knowledge they have in their area of expertise but you can’t expect them to know the details of your body. That’s where you begin to take responsibility.
Official advice is 19-50 yrs 55g and over 50 yrs is 53g protein per day, see Gov guidelines on nutrient intake.
Vegan and vegetarian advice is similar with 50-60g per day. In the fitness and strength training world advice differs dramatically from this. Protein requirements depend upon your body weight and the amount of training you do (more body = more muscle = more protein and more training = more protein):
Sedentary body weight in kg = grams of protein.
Medium intensity/cardio workout; body weight in kg x 1.5 = grams of protein
High intensity/strength training; body weight in kg x (2, 2.5 or 3) = grams of protein. Depending on which fitness or muscles experts you talk to.
This is where the journey of becoming fit doesn’t just change your body but your mind as well. You start to learn through trial and error what your body needs. How much extra protein you need when you train and also find out how much you need when you’re sedentary. This is the key to maintaining a healthy weight or rather a healthy tone and body fat.
I have to eat A LOT of protein and no matter how much endurance cardio I do I still can’t eat refined sugar or flour without it affecting me negatively (internally in my digestive system and superficially with fat immediately going on my stomach!) Carbohydrate intake has to increase too which is a whole other topic for another blog.
Vegetarians and vegans have to adjust their protein too and there’s plenty of options available. Because meat has such a high protein content it’s easier for meat eaters to meet the extra protein requirements from training.
Both meat eaters and veggies have to be scientific about their food intake and the best way to start is by keeping a food diary 3-5 days and calculate how much protein you’re eating at the moment. Then compare to your weight in kilos and note down any activity. Don’t change anything. From here you will have your foundation protein intake. You’ll be able to see if you’re eating above or below the basic requirements and whether that works for you.
For example person A weighs 70kg, on a sedentary day they require 70g of protein. When they train to medium intensity and do cardio like running or cycling or swimming they might require 1.5 x 70 (body weight in kg) = 105g of protein. If they do a weights session they might need 2 x 70 (body weight in kg) = 140g of protein.
The latest thoughts on nutrition and weight loss are more focused on satiety (how full you are) than calories. Protein fills you up. So when your body reacts to training and especially the first month or so into training you get a deep dark hunger. This is likely to be a protein craving and your body is crying to be refuelled so it can rebuild and grow muscle. If you don’t increase your protein intake you can end up eating the ‘wrong’ foods like sugar and other refined carbs that won’t feed your muscles but further increase body fat.
Another point to bear in mind is there’s evidence to show that too much protein in a sedentary lifestyle could be damaging to health yet also when your ill sometimes your body requires more protein to recover. Complicated isn’t it! Little by little you can work out what works for you.
Protein shake recipe: almond milk, banana, (organic) peanut butter, (cold extracted Pulsin brand) whey protein. Blend together between 30-40g protein.