September 25, 2014

We've gotten get general requirements of Recommended Daily Amounts (RDA) of our vitamins and nutrients shoved down our throats from birth. Yes, they're constantly changing, however so are our bodies. I am me, and you are you, and we are different. We have different hair color, skin color, digestive tracts, muscles, activity levels, BMIs, genders, and lifestyles. Why does the FDA try to put us all in one box with a big "RDA" bow" on it?

Luckily for you, my lovelies, I'm a huge nerd. Yes, I'd describe myself as a health-nut, however my "Nutrition and Physical Performance" class is turning me into a health NERD! I now have all of these calculations and facts about how much we need to eat and what we need to eat, based on our weight and lifestyle. I've decided to do a series called "Macro-breakdown Mania" where I get down into the dirty details about each of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein), and to hopefully shed some light on some myths about each of them. Why don't we start off with protein?

To determine how much protein our bodies need, we need to determine how active we are. A "sedentary" person, who doesn't exercise regularly needs 1.0 - 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram. An endurance athlete, who exercises regularly mostly with cardio and light lifting, needs between 1.2 - 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram. A resistance athlete, who does a lot of lifting at a heavier weight, and wishes to gain muscle mass, needs between 1.4 - 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram. Where you lie in your category depends on how often you exercise and the intensity of your exercises.
After your determine where you lie, you must convert your weight into kilograms. This can be done by dividing you weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a 150 lb person weighs 68 kilograms. So, you take the weight in kilograms and multiply it by where you lie in the intensity scale. A cross country runner would lie at 1.4 for example. Here's the calculation for a 150 lb cross country runner:

68 kg * 1.4 g/kg= 95 g of protein.

A gram of protein = 4 calories, so, that's 380 calories (95*4) of protein in your diet. That's 1/4 of your daily intake, the other 1/4 is lipids/fats and the other 1/2 is carbohydrates!

Proteins surprisingly are not a typical source of energy. One of protein's main functions is tissue formation. We can easily understand protein's function if we understand why runner's are naturally so skinny. Runners are endurance athletes that work out for an extended amount of time. Carbohydrates can only be fuel for so long, eventually your body will start breaking down a non-traditional form of energy, like protein. Breaking down protein means breaking down tissue, which means losing mass, which means looking skinnier and leaner, which means boom. Life mysteries solved.

What foods can we find this tricky macronutrient in? Complete proteins that contain every single amino acids include animal products (meat,fish, dairy, eggs, hemp and chia seed, buckwheat and quinoa). Incomplete protein sources that are missing an amino acid are vegetables, legumes, nuts and seed, and grains. However, if you eat them together, they make a full protein. For example, rice and beans together make protein (Chipotle fans rejoice). Plant protein is prominent as well, so enjoy that salad but maybe add some chicken, seafood, or tofu to get that extra punch.

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However, just like everything else in nutrition and exercise science, everything is relative to the person's activity level, metabolism, and diet. Protein is very vital in the post-workout recovery process. If you eat more than your daily value (see above), then it will be stored in fat or glycogen unless it's used right away!

I hope this blog post helps you navigate this slippery slope of protein. Think of me next time you're wondering whether to put one or two scoops in your protein blender bottle!

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