Protein; How much and How often?

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in Know | No Comments

So it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been working hard on my Get Back To Sport rehab site . Check it out.


We’re talking protein today.

So you’ve started a new training programme, or you’ve upped the amount you do, or maybe you’ve really started to hammer the weights (resistance training) and you’re wondering about your diet.

And ladies! This includes you, so don’t switch off, you could get more returns for your time investment in the gym here.  I know many of you want to ‘tone-up’ and not build muscle, but as you’ll see, toning-up involves building muscle, just to a lesser extent.

I’m going to cut to the chase quickly and give you the details afterwards. Here goes:

Common Myths About Protein Consumption:

  • You need at least 40g of protein per serving for body building
  • Women shouldn’t worry about their protein intake
  • Egg whites are the only really useful source of protein
  • It doesn’t matter when you ingest your daily protein, as long as you get it
  • Vegans will never be able get enough protein

These statements are all WRONG!

How Much Protein To Take?

  • 20-25 grams maximum (yes, even if you’re an 85 kilo bloke!)

Why not more Protein?

  • Even for the larger person, er herm of course it’s all muscle mass (!), muscle protein synthesis after exercise plateaus at around 20 grams

Vegans & Protein

  • You might need around 30 grams of plant-based protein to get the same benefit

When to Take Protein?

  • Spread your consumption throughout the day – this is important
  • Consume protein after exercise, 1-2 hours might be ideal to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), although there’s some emerging evidence that we have much longer window of opportunity – so don’t panic
  • Before bedtime is also a good time

Protein intake per meal_Macnaughton_Witard_2014
A fantastic figure here from Macnaughton & Witard (2014), illustrating the effects of different volumes of protein consumption and its effects on muscle protein synthesis.

What Protein To Take?

  •  How much do you want to spend? Basic whey protein will suffice for most people
  • Got some more to spend? Then protein supplements high in lysine or if you’re super rich, albumin (egg white) is possibly the best quality protein of all
  • Ultimately, see the first point!

Okay, so WHY take protein? Do we need extra protein?

If you’re already consuming a high protein diet, then the answer to this second question is probably ‘NO’. If not then read on…

The key determinant of whether or not your muscles adapt i.e. become bigger, more defined or just ‘tone-up’ (see my blog on muscle tone vs. muscle definition here) is the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) during your recovery after exercise.

Let’s assume your exercise goal is muscle hypertrophy, meaning a growth in muscle. Ladies be put off here, even if you’re training to ‘tone-up’ you need your muscles to grow. We need sufficient protein in our diet to enable this to happen.

Muscles are made of protein, so, if you eat more protein you’ll make more muscle, right?
Well, to a point could argue that this is right, but so many people get this wrong and end up wasting money.

We can measure how much to ingest by using out body mass.

Currently the reference range for athletes is 1.2-1.7 g/kg of body mass [Rodriguez et al. 2009]. This means a 60kg person should consume 78- 102 g per day. An 80 kg person should consume 104-136 g per day.

However, as Tipton & Witard (2007) point out, other factors might be more important than just the sheer volume of protein you eat per day, such as timing.  As I tell my clients, you do need to consider volume, but don’t ignore timing, so to starve yourself throughout the day and consume your daily allowance in once at dinner won’t be effective!

Interesting reads:

An excellent synopsis of the scientific literature was recently presented by Macnaughton & Witard (2014) in the British Association for Sport and Exercise Sciences magazine but if you haven’t got access to this, here’s a couple of abstracts of pertinent research studies:


Synergistic effects of resistance training and protein intake: practical aspects

Nutrient interaction for optimal protein anabolism in resistance exercise



Tipton, K.D. & Witard, O.C. (2007). Protein requirements and recommendations for athletes: relevance of ivory tower arguments for practical recommendations. Clinical Sports Medicine, 26, 17-36.

Rodriguez, N.R. et al. (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41, 709-731.

Macnaughton, L & Witard, O. (2014). British Association for Sport and Exercise Sciences magazine Autumn.

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