Myth Busting Protein’s Importance with Exercise
True or False: Getting enough protein helps you build muscle with exercise.
Answer: True. For most people, it’s a good idea to spread meat, milk and/or alternatives throughout the day. Try including these at every meal. In addition, having protein within 30 minutes or at least a couple hours after workouts supports muscle repair and growth. Having protein while resistance training also helps your muscles.
True or False: As an athlete, you need to eat meat to get enough protein.
Answer: False. It is certainly harder to get as much protein from vegetarian sources. For example, 2.5 oz of chicken has about twice as much protein as 2 eggs. However, getting enough vegetarian protein is possible with proper planning. Try including 2 protein-rich foods at every meal and including protein with exercise. High quality vegetarian sources of protein include cow’s milk, eggs and soy products like tofu, tempeh or soy milk, and other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, cheese and yogurt.
True or False: Protein powder or supplements boost results.
Answer: False. Protein supplements can be convenient but most people can meet their protein needs through food alone, even with higher needs from exercise or sports. Studies show that when getting enough calories, protein from food is just as effective as protein supplements for muscle building and recovery. Plus, getting protein from whole foods also provides you with other important nutrients that aren’t found in protein powders. For, example, snacking on a handful of nuts post workout also provides you with healthy fats and fiber.
True or false: The amount of protein you need depends on your activity level.
True. While most of us need roughly 0.45 g of protein per pound of body weight (equal to 8 oz of chicken per day if you weigh 160 pounds); strength or endurance athletes need at least 0.54 g per pound. These calculations depend on the relationship between height and weight, but there’s rarely a reason to go over 0.77 g per pound. Don’t want math complicating your food? Just make sure to include meat the size of our palm (or see above for vegetarian tricks) plus a source of protein in your snacks (especially after workouts), and your protein intake will likely be just fine. If you have food restrictions, speaking to a Registered Dietitian can help make sure you get enough protein and other nutrients.
True or False: There’s no serious harm in getting too much protein.
Answer: True. Unless you already have kidney disease, a very high protein consumption does not lead to kidney problems. However, having large meaty meals plus protein shakes can be quite expensive. Plus, if you’ve eaten more protein that you need, your body will just convert the extra protein to blood sugar – not extra muscle. Finally, you may also be promoting dehydration by getting rid of extra nitrogen waste from the large quantities of protein.