Putting a little effort into thinking about the foods you eat can go a long way. Making sure you get enough of the right kind of protein throught the day is key to staying on track while trying to lose weight. Most people need to eat around half their body weight in protein every day to prevent losing muscle mass. For example, the 150-pound person should be eating around 75 grams of protein per day. Why is muscle so important? Muscles burn calories. The more calories you burn, the faster you will lose weight and be more likely to keep it off.
To be most effective, you should spread out eating your protein throughout the day. What’s the magic number? Around 30 grams of protein per meal, which is equivalent to the amount of protein in 4 ounces of cooked meat. While this might be easy to do for dinner, when most people eat the bulk of their protein for the day, it may be more difficult to eat that much protein at breakfast and lunch. If 30 grams is difficult to achieve at breakfast and lunch, aim for at least 20 grams of protein for these meals.
The type of protein matters also. Leucine, an essential amino acid, is known to help our bodies build muscle better than any other amino acid. The highest sources of leucine are: eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and fish. Including a high leucine source of protein into each meal will help prevent muscle loss. Leucine content is very high in whey, one of the two proteins found in milk.
Other high leucine sources of protein such as eggs or egg whites can be just as effective. It would take 6 egg whites to equal the same amount of protein found in 1 scoop of standard whey protein powder. If you are buying whey protein powder, make sure you buy 100% whey and check to make sure there are no other additives included.
Timing of protein intake seems to be important in addition to type and amount.
Immediately after strength training exercise is when the most muscle will be generated, so protein should be consumed within 30 minutes to 1 hour following strength-training activities. Current research suggests your body only needs around 20 grams of protein post-workout for maximum muscle growth. The remainder will be either burned off or stored. Even if you need to increase the protein in your diet, remember: protein is important, but it is only one piece of a balanced diet. Carbohydrates and fats are both needed in addition to protein to lead healthy, active lives.