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What is Protein?

5 years ago, if you mentioned the word ‘protein’ amongst the general public, the thought of bodybuilders would likely resonate. High protein diets and protein-based supplements were considered ‘just’ for bodybuilders.

As the fitness industry has progressed and more evidence-based information has seeped out into the mainstream, protein is now becoming more known for its recovery capabilities.
Protein not only grows and repairs muscle but is essential for most biological processes in the body, basically, it is involved with anything that needs building, repairing or forming in the body. Because of the numerous different functions of protein, it is vital that it is consumed in adequate amounts, not just for performance, but for optimal health.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. Imagine a brick wall being the protein, the bricks are the amino acids and the concrete holding it all together are the peptide bonds. Just like brick walls come in different shapes, sizes and are built for different functions, as are proteins. Depending on the amino acid chain, this will determine the proteins function in the body.

So, how much protein should you be consuming?
Sadly, there is no definitive answer for the optimal amount of protein and is a case of ‘it depends’. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is 0.8g/kg which represents the minimum amount that should be consumed to avoid deficiency, however, this is generally considered too low. For optimal health individuals should be aiming to consume between 1.2-1.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. For someone who is physically active and trains regularly, they should be aiming for the higher end of this scale towards 1.7g/kg/day.

Example –
A person who weighs 80kg should aim to consume between 96-128g of protein per day. If they are physically active, a recommended amount of protein would be 136g per day.

In the case of bodybuilders who are training to build muscle, their training methodology is to physically break muscle tissue and to cause micro tears often through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (we’ll cover this in another article) should be aiming to consume 1.8-2.7g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Example –
A 80kg bodybuilder should be aiming to consume between 144g-216g of protein per day.


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Holly Archer

Holly is a Health & Performance Nutritionist at PhD