Dietary Protein 101: Building Blocks of Aesthetics & Athletics

Dietary Protein 101: Building Blocks of Aesthetics & Athletics

Protein is one the most important nutrients in all human biology. When the goal is to build or maintain muscle and burn fat at the same time, protein is a top priority.

You should aim to eat at least 0.8 grams of quality protein per pound of lean body mass.

That is about twice the amount of the regular protein intake of most guys.

But why do we need so much protein, and why do we need to eat even more protein to be lean and maintain muscle mass?

To start, protein intake has been controversial since the beginning of time and will continue to be. It is directly linked to animal’s rights groups like PETA as well as religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity that have their own code of conduct on how to eat meat.

But at the end of the day, protein is essential for maintaining our muscle mass, performance and recovery potential.

Muscle tissue is one of the most active and energy-consuming tissues in the human body. 1 kilogram of muscle can spend up to 100 kcal a day!

Nowadays, with passive lifestyles and carbohydrate-rich diets, our muscle mass has fallen to dangerously low levels while the fat tissue has risen. This means our metabolism has slowed significantly (meaning the calories the body burns in a day).

With a lower metabolism, the wellbeing and functionality of our bodies must also decrease out of necessity to maintain balance of nutrient intake.

Muscle tissue isn’t just necessary to function well but to boost our calorie spending when trying to achieve a healthier body fat percentage like sub 20%.

We all need more muscle mass. Gaining muscle is not just for the bodybuilders or young athletes, but also for the elderly, sick and healthy, and factory or office workers.

Properly functioning muscle mass prevents and heals joint and body pains.

Eating this extra protein constantly gives a signal to our bodies that it can afford to recover from muscle damage (training) and grow new muscle mass (super-compensation).

It happens even without physical exertion; although, exercise does speed up the process and increase the limit of lean mass that can be added to a person’s skeleton.

Beyond maintaining muscle mass and building new muscle, protein intake is important to understand because of the thermic effect of food.

Every nutrient spends energy to be ingested, digested and assimilated (be absorbed) into the body.

This process costs energy and it is called the thermic effect of food. Protein is the most difficult for the body to use and takes up to 20-30% of the total energy of the protein itself!

Imagine - when you eat 100 kcal of protein, it automatically adds 20-30 kcal to energy expenditure just like that! It might not sound like much, but getting this extra 20-30% from day to day, month to month - it will sum up to a large number of extra calories from doing nothing at all.

All while preserving your muscle mass.

At this point it should be clear why a lifter will want to eat EVEN more protein when cutting weight if he wants to maintain his muscle.

Additionally, protein itself is the most important macronutrient for recreational lifters who need to improve their eating habits like meal frequency and portion size.

That’s because protein is the most satiating nutrient compared to fats and carbs. This very cool side effect is because of the time it takes for protein to be digested, keeping us full much longer.

Have you ever eaten sugary or carb rich food and felt hungry just moments later?

It never happens with quality protein. In fact, you get the meat sweats if you try to push too hard. Similar to carb commas, over-eating can be very uncomfortable and even cost you your livelihood since bingeing leads to sedentariness out of necessity of digestion.

Eating just enough protein with every meal keeps you feeling full for hours and prevents you from snacking between meals. That’s why it is easy to not feel hungry at all by eating a protein-rich diet. Again, this is especially useful for people that have emotional eating habits. When you constantly feel full and energetic, it lowers your risk of snacking or bingeing drastically.

Those are just the most important things protein can do to us, and there are many more positive effects besides these like gluconeogenesis, which is our bodies ability to turn protein into glucose (usually made from the carbs we eat). This is a huge benefit for any diabetic or pre-diabetic recreational lifter.

They can safely lower their blood sugar levels, effectively lowering their need for medication while improving their physique and performance, all at the same time.

This makes it even easier to adopt a low carb, high protein diet if our number 1 goal is to burn fat & maintain muscle before switching gears to building more muscle.

Building muscle is always easier (and more fun) with carbs, but sometimes it pays huge dividends to leave (most of) the carbs on the shelf for later.

So, to sum it up, we want aim to eat enough quality protein to:

Maintain our muscles and grow new metabolically active muscle tissue
Add extra calories burnt by protein thermic effect (increase TDEE)
To keep hunger at bay (avoid bingeing)
To create a buffer system for low blood sugar

Surely there must be such a thing as too much protein, right?

Even though we aim to eat 2x to 3x times the amount of protein as the “average person”, there is such a thing as too much.

But, 2x to 3x the average, means that we have to consciously work to raise the amount of protein in our diet.

This can be hard for guys over the age of 30 to adapt to since their nutritional habits are more set in place. At least in the beginning it’s like that, but it becomes much more intuitive later as the results show for themselves.

As for my question above, how much is too much?

Anything over 1.5g/lb could easily put someone over their calorie needs if they were also eating carbs. But it’s completely safe to eat up to 3g/lb or even 5g/lb of body weight when assisted by a professional.

Research suggests that our upper limit for protein intake is actually 7.7g/lb of weight!

So why would the government recommend something as low as .4g/lb of weight?

I’ll let you ponder and come up with your own conclusion…

How about our Kidneys, is protein harmful to our kidneys?


It is just another popular myth.

However, extra protein can be harmful to people with kidney diseases so if that’s you, it's best to speak with a doctor or qualified nutritionist.

So, no - protein isn’t harmful, it is vital.

The more we eat, up to 1.5 grams per lb per day, the better our metabolism, our appetite regulation, the more fat we burn naturally and the stronger we can become!

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