How to Optimize Protein Intake for Weight Loss or Mass Building Goals

How to Optimize Protein Intake for Mass Building Goals

We’ve been led to believe that higher protein intake is always better – it has to be better than carbs, or fat – right?

Both carbohydrates and fat have been demonized in recent years as both boogeymen origins of inflammation and illness, but it is truly not that simplistic. As we’ve started to gain a better understanding as more research and studies come to light, we can now look at fat and recognize it depends on the quality and type of fat used, what it is being consumed with, and how it is being incorporated into a healthy diet.

No longer is the emphasis on removing fat from the diet, only to replace it with things that are much worse and inflammation-promoting.

The same applies to carbohydrates – refined sugars and refined grains lead to inflammation. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds can all be extremely antioxidant-rich, protecting against illness and disease.

In most cases, a healthy diet is one that encompasses a variety of whole foods and nutrients – both micro, and macro.

At the same time, the key importance is to avoid refined foods and grains, artificial sugars, vegetable oils, and red meats.

While specific types of diets or lifestyles like the ‘ketogenic’ diet are a great tool for weight loss or managing medical conditions, they are not a ‘one size fits all' approach that will work for everyone. Many of these diets are not sustainable long-term. At the end of the day, they are simply that – a tool.

How You Can Incorporate High-Protein into a Healthy Diet

Protein plays an important role in many bodily processes and is essential to healthy growth, development, organ function, and mass. But can there be too much of a good thing?

Most research seems to indicate that a higher protein intake, above the recommended daily amount, is not required to gain and may actually place more stress on the kidneys as opposed to improving health.

The RDA recommendation is about 0.36 grams per pound, while for athletes or intensive trainers, it ranges up to ~0.86 grams per pound. On a 2500 calorie diet for someone weighing in at 160-175 pounds, this roughly equals ~70 grams of protein (or ~280 calories) for the average individual per day, which is easily attainable from either animal-based sources or plant-based sources.

For those that are athletes, active, malnourished, or trying to lose weight: incorporating more protein into the diet also does not appear to do any harm, provided it is not a primary source of calories long-term, and the protein choices are smart ones. Getting most of those 2500 calories from healthy protein choices does not seem feasible, does it?

Long-term, your kidneys would have a difficult time, and you’d likely smell of ammonia…   

What healthy protein means is – reducing intake of red meats, processed meats, and conventional dairy, while instead opting for fish and seafood, eggs, plant-based protein like legumes, and vegetables.

Is Plant-Based Protein Comparable to Animal Protein?

It is a misunderstanding that plant-based foods are not comparable to animal-based proteins in terms of quality and benefit.

While animal-based protein may seem to promote a stronger anabolic response for muscle mass building and utilization, plant-based protein can meet the same nutritional demands.

While you would have to eat a much larger serving of vegetables to get the same amount of protein and amino acid profile as some beef, beef is also more difficult to eat more of and tends to promote an inflammatory response compared to foods with high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols, like vegetables.

Further, most plant foods do in fact contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body – just in much smaller amounts, depending on the food.

This is why high-quality plant-based sources like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, etc. are combined together in meals to ensure these needs are met with ease.

In one of the largest studies conducted on the matter, including 30 (!) years of data, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer were increased primarily with processed and unprocessed red meats (particularly pork) – but not from fish, seafood or poultry. Conversely, a higher intake of plant-based protein was associated with all lower mortality risks and better health.

Selecting The Right Protein Powder for You

Protein powders and protein supplements can play an important role in meeting daily protein needs, as an easy way to reach a high level of protein without cooking or stressing.

This is especially true for bodybuilders or athletes that do not constantly have the time to be cooking and eat healthy, high-protein meals.

The importance then lies in selecting a protein powder that meets your nutritional goals and dietary restrictions. It is essential to select one that is free from artificial and refined sugars. Always monitor how you feel about it. One which comes from a nutrient-dense source, such as grass-fed whey (dairy-based) or an amino-acid-rich plant like hemp or pea is what you want. These can provide an easy addition to your daily macros without jeopardizing your well-being.

Plant-Based and Vegan Protein Options:

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah Max Protein

NOW Pea Protein

Omega Nutrition Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein

Sprout Living Epic Protein Plant-Based Protein

Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein Vanilla

Whey and Animal-Based Protein Options:

AOR Advanced Whey Vanilla

Kaizen Whey Isolate

KAHA Nutrition New Zealand Whey Protein

KAHA Nutrition New Zealand Whey Concentrate Chocolate

Bulletproof Collagen Protein Unflavored