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How much protein should we be eating?

Protein is a vital macronutrient that plays a critical role in various physiological processes within the human body. From muscle repair and growth to enzyme function and immune support, protein is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. For those seeking to optimise strength and fitness, understanding the ideal protein intake is crucial.

Protein and its Functions:

Proteins are made up of amino acids, the building blocks of the body. There are 20 amino acids, nine of which are essential, meaning our bodies cannot produce them, and we must obtain them from our diet. Protein plays a significant role in:

# Muscle Protein Synthesis: Protein provides the necessary amino acids to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, making it essential for muscle recovery and growth after exercise.

# Metabolism: Protein has a higher thermic effect of food compared to carbohydrates and fats, meaning the body expends more energy to digest and process it, potentially aiding in weight management.

# Satiety: Protein-rich foods help promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction, reducing overall calorie intake and supporting weight management.

Recommended Protein Intake:

The recommended protein intake varies based on factors such as age, sex, body weight, activity level, and fitness goals. The following are evidence-based recommendations for different populations:

# General Population: For sedentary individuals or those with minimal physical activity, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This level is sufficient to prevent protein deficiency but may not be optimal for strength and fitness goals.

# Active Individuals: For individuals engaged in regular moderate physical activity or resistance training, a protein intake of 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is commonly recommended. The higher end of this range is suitable for those seeking to build muscle mass and improve strength.

# Athletes and Intense Exercisers: Athletes and individuals involved in intense endurance or strength training may benefit from consuming 1.4 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This higher intake helps support muscle repair and adaptation to the demands of strenuous exercise.

Scientific Evidence Supporting Protein Intake:

Numerous studies have investigated the impact of protein intake on muscle protein synthesis, strength gains, and overall health. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2018 reviewed 49 studies on protein intake and resistance training. The analysis concluded that a protein intake of around 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day was associated with greater muscle strength and size in both men and women engaged in resistance training.

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 investigated the effects of protein supplementation on muscle mass and strength during prolonged resistance training in older men. The results showed that a higher protein intake of 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day resulted in significantly greater muscle mass and strength gains compared to a lower intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Protein intake is a crucial factor in supporting overall health, muscle development, and strength gains. For those seeking to improve their strength and fitness, a protein intake ranging from 1.2 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended based on scientific evidence. However, individual requirements may vary, and it is essential to consider factors such as age, activity level, and fitness goals when determining optimal protein intake. As with any dietary change, consulting a registered dietitian or healthcare professional can provide personalised guidance and ensure an appropriate protein intake that aligns with an individual's specific needs and lifestyle.

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