Diet crazes may come and go, but one macronutrient has always remained largely unscathed by the mainstream fitness and nutrition media.
Protein is an essential part of our daily diet, forming the structural basis of our muscles, skin, nails and hair, amongst other functions. True, this macronutrient is mighty important, but the hype it gets and the marketing power that is thrown behind protein powders and other supplements could make you think the entire American population is suffering from protein deficiency.
That is just not the case. In fact, most of us get more than enough protein through our regular daily food intake—including vegetarians and savvy vegans.
For most people, the RDA for protein intake is 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (2.2kg/1lb). If you’re an athlete or someone performing high-intensity physical activity (e.g. training for a marathon), you should bump that RDA up a few notches to 1.1-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (Williams 2006). In other words, a 135 lb woman should consume between 68 to 86 grams of protein, while a 180 lb man should target 90 to 195 grams. When we get too much protein, excess is converted into carbohydrates or fat and can stress the liver and kidneys. Eventually excess protein substrate is doomed to be a waste, excreted through urination.
The ideal food intake breakdown for athletes is to get 25-35% of your calories from fat, 15-20% from protein, and 55-60% from carbohydrates. For the sake of comparison, the once very popular ZONE Diet encourages a 30:40:30 ratio, or double the amount of protein according to RDA standards and not nearly enough carbohydrates to fuel your muscles’ glycogen stores for exercise. While these ratios are helpful for me as a nutrition coach, most people just want to be told how much protein they need after a workout.
This question always prompts my Golden Rule for Post-Workout Recovery Fuel: consume 10 grams of protein within one hour of intense physical activity for improved muscle repair.
Ideally, your post-workout snack or meal would fit into that 25-35%:15-20%:%55-60% ratio of fats:proteins:carbs. Most Clif bars fit the bill when you’re on the go with 45g carbs (5g of which are dietary fiber), 10g protein, 5g fat, and only 250 calories. And if you’re looking for something lighter—maybe saving room for that brunch in a couple hours—Clif Builder’s Snack Size are my go-to. The still have that 10g grams of protein your body needs, are a mere 130 calories, and provide a good source of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium, as well as vitamins A, C, E and K and many of the B vitamins that are so essential to our metabolism.
I’m a big fan of Clif bars not only for their impressive nutritional profiles but also because of the company’s ethos. Clif is a 1% for the Planet member, they use 100% recycled materials for their packaging, and their bars never contain ingredients like artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, or trans fats.
Please keep in mind that these kind of bars should not be viewed as a regular meal replacement. Whole grains, fruits and veggies, beans and other sources of lean protein are essential to a well-balanced, healthy diet. That said, they are definitely a MOARyoga-approved, convenient way to fulfill the protein needs of your muscles in that one-hour post-workout window.References: Williams, Melvin H. Nutrition for Health, Fitness and Sport: 8th Edition. McGraw-Hill. May 2006.