There are 3 macro-nutrients in the food that we eat. Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat. Each of these nutrients has it’s own calorie content per gram.
Protein & Carbs have 4 Calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. So you may think that you need to limit the amount of fat you eat in order to lose or maintain weight. If only it were that simple!
You need Protein for growth and repair of muscle tissue and to initiate chemical reactions within your body. Your muscles are in fact mainly made up of water. Not all proteins are equal, depending on the food there are different types and amounts of amino acids.
Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein. Some foods are complete proteins, which means they have all 20 amino acids that you need to build muscle.
Your body can produce 11 of the 20 amino acids, however the other 9 must come from food.
Complete proteins are found in food from animals – poultry, meat, fish, eggs and dairy. There are not many non-animal proteins that are complete proteins. So you would have to combine several non-animal proteins to get the required amount of amino acids.
Soy is a complete protein, however this has been linked estrogen production. This is something you need to limit if your goal is to gain or maintain lean muscle mass.
The most important amino acids are branched chain amino acids (BCAA). These are especially important for muscle growth.
There are many different opinions on how much protein we need, however as different people have different “needs” it becomes very hard to define.
Some experts say eating only a small amount of protein is enough for everyday needs however this does not take into account the needs of someone who is very active, who will need much more protein in order to stop muscle breakdown (catabolism).
So if like me you regularly workout, you are going to need more than an average amount of protein to build muscle and prevent catabolism. Most experts agree that you need just under 1 gram of protein for every lb of body-weight.
I always shoot for 1 gram of protein per lb of body-weight, it’s best to ensure you are eating enough protein in order to build muscle.
However you generally do not need more than this as your body will not be able to use it and it will simply be stored as energy. This is not a good thing as the human body is designed to use carbs and fat as it’s energy source and protein as a last resort.
Also if you are eating a huge amount of protein you are probably not getting enough vitamins and minerals as you are probably not eating enough fruit and vegetables. So aim for 1 gram of protein per lb of body-weight for optimum lean muscle building.