How much protein should I have per portion? A common question we're asked.
As part of the Box Framework, protein is vital for repair and growth and literally being the building block of muscle. High (relative to the average population) protein diets also consistently show improvements in body composition (looking good!) and strength (1, 2, 3).
Both the amount of protein and the timing of eating affect muscle size and strength, whereas too little protein can lead to muscle wastage, injuries and illness (1, 5, 6).
So it goes without saying that eating enough of the stuff is critical for any functional athlete.
How much you eat over a 24 h period far outweighs the importance of timing, that is why your personal preference and your work/social schedule should form the basis of when you eat and how many meals you eat per day.
To calculate your energy needs then make sure you download our Macro Workbook and understand how to fuel your performance and recover. DOWNLOAD HERE.
So we know that overall totals should be your priority, however, it is still pragmatic and sensible for athletes who train a lot and at a high intensity (CrossFit or function athletes) to eat protein around workouts.
Even though it may only bring about a small benefit, there's no benefit in NOT eating around workouts.
Likewise, having a protein portion before bed is another simple way to help increase building muscle (muscle protein synthesis) rates and ensure you hit your total proteins for the day (7).
But how much?
Ideally you should aim to have around 0.25-0.3g.kg.bw (around 25-40g) interspersed throughout the day, a similar dose (0.3-0.5g.kg.bw) after exercise and potentially a higher dose (0.6g.kg.bw) before bed. Although this doesn’t need to be exact (overall protein matters most), it gives us a basis to help work out your targets.
Calculate your post workout protein serving. 0.3-0.5 x bodyweight (kg)
Divide the remaining protein by the amount of meals and snacks in your schedule (not including the post workout serving
*Optional pre bed snack of 0.6g x bodyweight (kg).
Example - 80kg athlete eating 6 meals and snacks per day (including post workout snack)
Based on your schedule, you may prefer three larger servings with your main meals and a smaller serving with your snacks. This is perfectly acceptable. The figure below depicts our protein portion size recommendations.
But what does that mean in real money?
Plain Yogurt Greek plain (0%)
21g of protein
6g of carbohydrates
0g of fat
12g of protein
3g of carbohydrates
6g of fat
27g of protein
1g of carbohydrates
0g of fat
22g of protein
0g of carbohydrates
3g of fat
Eggs are another great source of protein. If you are concerned about kcals then you can just opt for egg whites..
4 x large eggs
25g of protein
1g of carbohydrates
19g of fat
Do you need more help with your nutrition for performance? Then see how we can help:
Phillips 2016 (Phillips, S., Chevalier, S. and Leidy, H. (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(5), pp.565-572.)
Jager, R., Kerksick, C.M., Campbell, B.I., Cribb, P.J., Wells., SKWiatT, T.M., Purpura, M., Zie- genfuss, T.N., Ferrando, A.A., Arent, S.M., Smith-Ryan, A.E., Stout, J.R., Arciero, P.J., Ormsbee, M.J., Taylor, L.W., Wilborn, C.D., Kalman, D.S., Krieder, R.B., Willoughby, D.S., Hoffman, J.R., Krzykowski, J.L. and Antonio, J., 2017. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, pp. 20-017- 0177-8. eCollection 2017.
Mettle, S., Mitchell, N. and Tipton, K. (2010). Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss during Weight Loss in Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42(2), pp.326-337.
Phillips, S. and Van Loon, L. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to opti- mum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(sup1), pp.S29-S38.
Tipton, K. (2015). Nutritional Support for Exercise-Induced Injuries. Sports Medicine, 45(S1), pp.93-104.
1Phillips, S. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S2), pp.S158-S167.
Chad M. Kerksick, Shawn Arent, Brad J. Schoenfeld, Jeffrey R. Stout, Bill Campbell, Colin D. Wilborn, Lem Taylor, Doug Kalman, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, Richard B. Kreider, Darryn Willoughby, Paul J. Arciero, Trisha A. VanDusseldorp, Michael J. Ormsbee, Robert Wildman, Mike Greenwood, Tim N. Ziegenfuss, Alan A. Aragon & Jose Antonio (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing,14, (2017)