Are you overwhelmed by the amount of protein you’re “supposed” to be eating in a day? Or are you totally confused about how much you should be aiming for? There’s a ton of information out there, and the gym bros are saying you need all protein all the time…but that’s not the full picture. Let’s clear that all up so you can feel confident in your fueling!
You might be feeling overwhelmed because all over social media, every coach or trainer is telling you that you need to be eating over 150 grams of protein per day! That might be the case for you depending on your weight, your goals, activity level, and your appetite. Or that might be a lot more than you’re hungry for in a day. You might also be seeing “How To Get 40+ Grams of Protein in a Meal” and you’re wondering “How the heck can I eat all of that in one sitting?!”
Trending recommendations are suggesting you need to be eating at least 1 gram of protein per POUND of body weight each day, which can be close to twice the amount the USDA recommends, even if you’re active.
The USDA recommendations are per kilogram of body weight as opposed to pounds of body weight. For an inactive person, the recommendations are 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight which is about 0.3-0.4 grams per pound of body weight. For an active person, the recommendations are 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight, or 0.5-0.9 grams per pound of body weight.
Unlike carbohydrates, there is no storage form of protein that our bodies can use up when we need it, so it really isn’t useful to eat more than what you can digest at one time. Studies have shown that 20-35 grams of protein at one meal is enough to satisfy the needs to rebuild muscle tissue. The protein that you eat in excess of that in one sitting will either be used for other processes in your body or your body will just get rid of it! So basically, there are no benefits to eating 35+ grams of protein in one meal, especially if you are losing out on eating fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates!
IS THERE SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH PROTEIN
There may be no major health risks that are associated with eating such high amounts, or even excess protein. BUT if you are eating less carbs, fruits, and veggies than you should be in a day because you’re striving for so much protein and aren’t hungry with the rest, that’s where some health risks can come into play. You can miss out on vitamins and minerals, adequate fiber, and also enjoyment if you don’t have room for enough fun foods like dessert! Not to mention, if you’re someone with a history of disordered eating or are in your recovery, this can all be super triggering!
So now you might be wondering, “Well I am in recovery, I’ve had some disordered eating, but I’m also pretty active so what the heck are MY recommendations?!” I hate to say that there is no one answer for all, but a good place to start might be on the lower end of the USDA protein recommendations for active people (about 0.5 grams per pound of body weight). Then make sure you’re eating enough fruits and vegetables for the vitamins and minerals, and enough carbohydrates for the energy (I might sound like a broken record here, but YES, you do need carbs, ESPECIALLY as an athlete). If you’re still hungry and more protein is what you want, then go for it! There’s no harm in that 🙂 The best way to make sure you are getting enough will always be to work 1-1 with a Registered Dietitian!
Protein is an important part of an athlete’s diet, but you don’t have to feel like a failure if you’re not eating 150 grams per day. As an athlete in eating disorder recovery, every day that you’re eating foods that you love and fuel your body is a WIN. If you’re struggling to get there, or some of these “trendy” recommendations are triggering to you, reach out to us. We work with our clients through their nutritional concerns to feel their best and enjoy an active lifestyle! Check out my services page to learn more.