Bodybuilders, personal trainers and coaches have been saying it forever. Protein intake should be VASTLY higher than that recommended by Health Canada or the US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention. For decades our high-carb lovin’ governments, and their Registered Dietitians, have promoted a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of just 0.8 g protein per kg of body mass, per day. For a 150 lb woman (68 kg), that amounts to an RDA of 54 g protein per day. For a 180 lb man (81 kg), the RDA would be 64 g protein per day.
That doesn’t really mean much to you, does it?
What if I tell you that bodybuilders, strength athletes and trainers have – for just as long – recommended double that amount of protein for optimal health & fitness? For fat loss and muscle maintenance, most figure competitors, bodybuilders, and the like are shooting for 1.4-2.0 g protein per kg bodyweight per day. That’s approximately double the RDA.
Now, I’m not one to advocate a bodybuilding diet or even recommend bodybuilding or figure competition as a hobby for the average person. These are extreme sports full of weight gain & loss periods that are taxing on the cardiovascular system when done repeatedly and not good for longterm longevity. Much better to get to your leanest healthy bodyweight range, then stay there for the rest of your life. OK, easier said than done, but that should be your goal.
So bodybuilding may not be the healthiest way to live out your 70-90 years, but if I threw 100 average Canadians eating according to thebCanada Food Guide next to 100 average bodybuilders eating according to traditional bodybuilding knowledge, I think we can guess which group would have the highest muscle mass relative to fat mass. While you may not plan to hop on stage in a pink sequined bikini anytime soon, if you’ve had a baby recently (you know, earlier this year or maybe earlier this millenium…no judgment here…) there is a good chance you’ve got weight to lose. And I’d bet my left arm the weight you want to lose is of the fatty nature, and not that sexy toned stuff that makes your biceps, butt and shoulders look great in swimsuit season.
Finally, science is catching up with what’s considered common knowledge among those of us in the fitness industry. If you want to lose weight but want that weight to be mostly fat, you need about double the RDA of protein to do so.
Just last week the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published a report showing that consuming twice the RDA of protein — while adhering to a diet and exercise plan — prevents the loss of muscle mass and promotes fat loss.
How many friends & relatives could you count who are currently trying to shed a few pounds, or even lose 30, 40 or 50 pounds to improve health? And, well, live past 60. Given how many North Americans need to tighten their belts, shouldn’t the RDA reflect what’s known to be most effective? In other words, 1.6 g protein per kg per day. “This study essentially confirms what body builders have shown us for a long time — a high protein diet helps prevent muscle loss when trying to lose fat,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
One note on the high protein lifestyle – there is a limit to its effectiveness. The study included 3 groups: a group which consumed the current RDA of protein, a group which consumed 2x the RDA, and a group which consumed 3x the RDA. There were no additional fat loss/muscle maintenance benefits to eating any MORE than 2x RDA of protein.
Here’s the calculator for your protein needs:
(bodyweight in pounds x 0.453) x 1.6 = optimal RDA protein for fat loss/muscle maintenance
And here are a bunch of trainer-approved ideas for all types of diets & tastes, to help you get the protein you need to support your postnatal fat loss goals without catabolizing that muscle mass you work so hard for at Belly Bootcamp or in the gym! Adding more protein to your meals throughout the day (and not just at dinner) will help you avoid the HANGRY syndrome and prevent between meal snacking and late night snacking… which, generally, tends to be more of the Dorito nature and less of the tuna on spinach, doesn’t it?
- 3 eggs scrambled with 1 oz light feta cheese (for its higher protein content, not because it’s low fat) = 24 g protein
- 5 oz chicken breast at dinner, carved from a whole chicken = 30 g protein
- 1 can (165 g) light tuna, mixed with some mayo & yogurt, on greens for lunch = 42 g protein
- 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese, post-workout or for an afternoon snack = 15 g protein
- 1 cup Balkan natural 8% yogurt blended with fruit of choice & frozen for a snack = 8 g protein
- 2 light Babybel cheese rounds with a piece of fruit = 12 g protein
- 1 cup tempeh for a dinner protein, or served with veggies or greens at lunch = 31 g protein
- 4 slices natural turkey breast deli meat wrapped around mustard & onion sprouts = 15 g protein
- 6 oz wild Atlantic salmon fillet for dinner = 33 g protein
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked & used as a side dish or added to lunch salad to increase protein/fibre = 8 g protein
- 1 oz pistachios (unshelled, about 49 total) for a bedtime snack = 6 g protein
- 1 cup 2% milk used to cook 50 g oatmeal (instead of water) = 18 g protein (total, oats + milk)
Do you have a favourite high-protein meal or snack? Share it below!