MALE WEIGHTLIFTERS ONLY;
Of the three macronutrients, protein, carbs, and fat, protein intake seems to be the area that the most people experience the most confusion. Protein is what the human body’s muscles are made of, and protein intake needs to be increased in order to promote protein synthesis, which is what it is called when the human body creates muscle. With no protein, or a shortage of protein, this frequently becomes the limiting factor in building strength, muscle size, or speed.
Not only does protein need to be increased in order to build muscle, but kcal from protein are the least likely to be used to build fat of the three macronutrients (yes for all you low carbers, a low carb diet with higher protein, lower fat is better than vice versa for fat loss, ditch the bacon and get steak). Protein has the highest thermogenic effect of the three macronutrients, meaning it takes the most kcal to digest. Your stomach is using some of the calories from the steak you are eating to digest the steak, therefore net energy balanced is reduced. After heavy lifting or intense exercise (ie football, competitive swimming, track) protein intake is increased in the muscle. Therefore not only are you using kcal to digest the protein, but more of that protein is destined towards the muscle cells for repair purposes, and the fat cells are more likely to starve.
It is untrue that the body can only absorb 40g of protein at a time, this is “broscience” (a term used to describe trends in nutrition and bodybuilding promoted by gymrats with no real educational or professional background in fitness). If enough people say something, it is accepted as “common knowledge.” The myth started with that “40g of whey is somewhat close to the amount of whey the muscle will absorb” in an average 150 lb man immediately after a workout. Slower digesting proteins (ie all food sources), can benefit from a much higher number of grams (limitless). Whey has a very short time of digestion, meaning it hits the blood very quickly and actually causes an insulin spike similar to carb ingestion.
Here are some different proteins and their times of digestion
whey hydrolysate 10 minutes
whey isolate 25 minutes
whey concentrate 40 minutes
chicken 4 hours
casein shake 6 hours
red meat 12 hours
Generally a faster speed of digestion is better in the peri-workout period and more fattening and less beneficial at other times. In the post workout window, insulin sensitivity is increased and therefore a rapid surge of carbs, protein, and aminos and creatine can be beneficial and absorbed by the muscle, but at other times a more slow digestion is more beneficial. This is why bodybuilders drink simple sugars and whey post workout, but most meals consist of animal protein and complex carbs.
Given that animal protein is digested very slowly, and the more that is eaten at a time the longer it takes to digest, it is better to talk about daily numbers than to measure protein by meal. If you were a competitive bodybuilder it may be necessary to eat protein every 2.5 hours, but for regular gymgoers who want to know what it takes to look like rambo or terrell owens, we can talk daily. 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight is what broscience tells us is the correct amount of protein. The truth is, contrary to what you would think, you need to eat the most protein while trying to lose fat. This is because protein and carbs have an inverse relationship in the world of competitive fitness and sports nutrition. Both spike insulin, and without the larger insulin spike from the CHO, less protein makes it to the muscle, meaning less protein and less glycogen synthesis. If you are really dieting hard and not eating any carbs then I would say 2.2g of protein per pound of lean body mass. I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but it is a good educated starting point, and much more accurate than 1g per pound of bodyweight (So if Will Ferrel is 6’1 and weighs 200lbs you think he needs as much protein as an NFL wide receiver who is the same hieght and 5% bodyfat?) An individual who is 20% bodyfat and 200 lbs has an lbm of ~160lb (not taking water into account). Every gram that cho is increased, you can decrease protein, until 1 gram per pound of lbm is hit. If you eat the standard American diet and are 200 lbs and dont have abs, 160 is about the lowest your protein should ever drop. If you are doing a “cyclical ketogenic diet”(lyle mcdonald) my advice would be to aim for the 2.2 g per pound of bodyweight on the no carb days. So for a 200 lb man with no abs, you would be aiming for basically 400g of protein daily. These are meat based carnivorous meals. It seems intimidating but the key is eating mulitple meats at each meal. Steak and eggs, whey protein with egg whites and heavy whipping cream and raw cacao, sausage and turkey burger with a protein shake…. There are ways to make anything taste good, you just have to think outside of the box. Such a protein intake with no CHO makes it possible to gain a bit of muscle and strength while RAPIDLY dropping fat. Not an easy diet for the faint of heart, but as far as effectiveness for burning fat i give it a “10.”
My experience with whey as far as a meal replacement is that it sucks, but is way better than not eating. If the current goal is recomp I would abstain from drinking whey unless you add heavy whipping cream, coconut oil, polive oil or some sort of fat to lower the glycemic index. If your main goal is to lose fat, i would abstain from whey on cardio days completely, and on lifting days it is really up to the lifter. On those days it can go either way, it depends how much “getting cut” matters to the athlete possibly at the expense of “getting big” and vice versa.
SUMMARY: Several meals, such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner is better than a “warrior diet”(Ori Hoeflemaeker), but for the typical guy trying to look like a fitness model eating on an ocd stopwatch is simply unecessary for protein. Aim for 250g of protein if you are a somewhat muscular 200 lb male eating carbs, and go as high as 400g when going low carb. Meat is better than whey. Try to eat a big slab of meat everytime you sit down to eat, and slam a protein shake after lifting, with atleast 40g whey.