We all know the importance of eating adequate protein for helping our muscles perform and repair, but a leading sports dietitian says that too many Australians squeeze all their protein intake into dinner, which won’t allow for optimum absorption.
Accredited sports dietitian Simone Austin says that while most Australians eat more protein than they actually need, many tend to clump it into their evening meal, which won’t actually help the body and brain recover and repair optimally.
“It’s really important to get enough protein throughout the day – it should be evenly spread and not a whole lot at one time,” she told Coach.
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“If you’re trying to build muscle, it’s much better to eat 20 or 25g of protein each meal and then have 10g of protein at each snack.”
Austin says that a lot of Aussies have minimal protein for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Having yoghurt, milk, eggs, nuts, seeds, lean meat, legumes, tofu and seafood throughout the day is going to be better than gorging on a 300g steak at night and calling your protein consumption a day.
Protein by numbers
The average Australian adult only needs about 0.8-1g of protein per kilo of body weight per day.
If you’re starting a resistance training program to build muscle, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) advises increasing your intake to 1.5-1.7g per kilo of body weight initially, then dropping it back to 1-1.2g for maintenance once you’ve built your bulk.
So that means a 65kg woman would only need about 65g of protein if she was doing an ordinary exercise regimen or up to 110g each day if she was trying to build muscle. Or an 85kg man would need about 85g of protein for an ordinary exercise regimen or up to 145g if he was trying to build muscle.
Given 300ml of milk has 12g of protein and 140g of steak has 40g of protein, it’s not too hard to reach those amounts.
Timing protein with your training
The other important thing to know about consuming protein is that timing is everything.
If you want to gain muscle then you want to have some protein and carbohydrates up to 90 minutes before commencing your workout and then consume some quite quickly after you finish in order to optimise the muscle uptake and retention of amino acids.
“You’ve got to replace everything you burnt up during the workout,” Austin explains.
“A yoghurt or some milk is perfect for that because it’s got protein and carbohydrates.”