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What is protein? What does it do? How much should you be eating?
Raw pork, a perfect food for rugby recovery, on a plate

We have had many trainers / athletes say to us “I’m training like mad, but I just can’t make the gains in muscle mass and strength that I want”. This may sound familiar!

Firstly, you may be overcooking the volume in the gym, which will be another blog post, but the first thing I normally ask is, “How much protein do you consume a day?”

This question normally gets returned with a vacant look or shrug of the shoulders! The athlete will continue to briefly explain his daily eating habits to which immediately I’m struck with the lack of protein that exists in their diet.

Protein intake is absolutely ESSENTIAL for building muscle. They are simply put, the building blocks for muscle tissue. If you don’t eat enough protein, you will certainly struggle to recover and build significant muscle.

So what do I ned to do? A few factors need to be considered here. Firstly, is daily total. Its widely recommended that 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per Kg of your ‘target bodyweight’. I personally shoot in the middle and work on 2 grams per kg. For example:

103kg (my bodyweight) x 2.0 = 206 grams. Therefore, circa 200 grams of protein is my daily target.

An important point to make here is the term ‘target body weight’. If you’re 60kg and you want to get to 75kg over the long term, eating 120g of protein a day will not be as optimal as eating 150g of protein a day. Conversely, if you are 140kg and you want to slim down to 110kg, you will be overconsuming protein if you calculate using 140kg (280g protein daily). This is why it’s important to use ‘target body weight’.

What about distribution?

Now eating 200g in one sitting will not be as efficient as eating 200g split across 4-5 meals. When you’re aiming to build muscle, you don’t want to go 20-24 hours without protein as the body will enter a state of muscle protein breakdown (breakdown of your own muscle tissue). This is called a ‘catabolic’ state. This is not good! When you eat a high protein meal, the amino acid levels in your blood will rise, and you will be in a ‘anabolic’ state (muscle building) for up to 5-6 hours. Therefore, spreading your meals across 4-5 servings over the day will give you the best chance to remain ‘anabolic’ for the majority of the day and avoid muscle protein breakdown.

This is why intermittent fasting (only eating for an 8 hour window of the day) can be a useful tool for some regarding weight management as for some it aids in restricting calorie intake through the day, but you’re also not feeding the body any protein for 16 hours. Not ideal if your aim is to build muscle, strength and power.

So there is the basics on protein. There are different types of proteins, animal and plant for example which can be further subdivided, but if you can stick to the above principles then you will be off to a great start! All of our nutrition plans we prescribe clients have been set to 2g protein per kg with a minimum of 3 meals / servings a day. We do think 4-5 is better, but we appreciate some of you may have busy lives!

So next time you’re shopping, educate yourself, read the labels and nutritional information and find out how much protein you’re eating.


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