Protein is just for bodybuilders, right?

I get lots of protein questions, which is good because it’s important.

But if you listen to this episode, you probably won’t have any more questions. You’ll know how much you need, how to space it out, and where to find it. 



Time Stamps

00:00 Introduction to Protein and its Importance

05:14 Determining Protein Targets Based on Body Composition

15:10 Debunking Myths: Protein Absorption and Kidney Health


Welcome back to the Bite Me Nutrition podcast. Today, I'm going to be talking about protein because it's a topic I understandably get a ton of questions about. It is a really, really important thing for all of us to be focusing on. There's a little bit of misinformation out there, but I also just think there's kind of a lack of understanding for a lot of people. I'm not going to go through everything protein, even though that's what I'm probably going to call this episode, because I think it's catchy. Everything protein would take days to get through, but...

My goal by the end of this podcast is for you to completely understand the basics of daily and weekly and overall protein intake. So you can make sure that you're getting enough for your health and your goals. I'm going to talk as well in terms of, for people who are tracking, so numbers, but also for people who would prefer to use visual guidelines who don't want to do any weighing or tracking. Now the other just slight aside that I would mention is those aren't the only two options. I think we either hear that we need to track our calories, which is fine for certain people, or we don't track our calories, which means we can use say visual portion guidelines, which are also excellent for some people. But I think a cool third option, which is going to help put a lot of what I'm about to discuss in context is to maybe just look up a couple of different foods in a database.

and weigh that food out a couple of times just so you can start to eyeball it. So for example, let's say that you figure out that you want to shoot for 30 grams of protein per meal across the day. By the end of this podcast, you'll know what that number should be for you. But let's say for you, it is 30 grams, but you don't really know how many grams of protein chicken breast contains.

You could just look it up in a database, figure out that 150 grams contains about 30 grams of 150 grams of chicken breast contains about 30 grams of protein. You weigh 150 grams of chicken breast a couple of times. Done. You can basically, you know, you can have a very well educated guess at what your serves of chicken are for potentially the rest of your life, because you've just spent a couple of times giving yourself that visual context. So if that's not something you've done before,

outside of a certain group of people who I would still advise against doing that. If that's you, you'll probably know who you are. But for everyone else, it can be a really good way to just get some context around your portions, which is valuable for all portions, but especially for protein. So just on that, whether you use something like Calorie King, it's a website that's fine. Or if you want to be extra specific, you can use something called the Australian Food Composition Database. The easiest way to find that is to Google,

N U T T A B or nut tab. I assume that stands for nutrition tables, but I've never actually checked. Anyway, that's what I would do about protein. Now we need to talk about your total daily protein target because it is the most important thing. Timing of protein, spacing of protein, protein sources are all relevant and important, but the most critical factor is making sure you're getting enough protein in the day.

If I had to pick between someone having five serves of protein, but not hitting their protein target across the day versus one server protein, but actually hitting their protein target, as highly unlikely as that would be, I would pick the one that allows them to hit their daily protein target. So if you were to Google that and you found, say the RDI, the recommended daily intake of protein, you'd see at least in Australia, the recommendation is to shoot for 0 .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

So that means for a hundred kilo person, they want 80 grams of protein. Now it's important to note that the RDIs have been developed to ensure that around 95 % of the population following those RDIs will not experience deficiency. So put simply, the RDIs have been developed to communicate public health information to millions and millions of people to help them avoid deficiency.

Okay, so there's nothing wrong with the RDI. It does exactly what it says. It helps people avoid deficiency. However, I would kind of phrase that as like that is an adequate protein intake and that's fine. But for a lot of people, we would like to go a little bit closer to say the optimal end of the spectrum. And that, as we've seen in many, many different cases, many different studies is quite a bit higher than 0 .8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

I would be recommending people shoot for around 1 .4 to 2 .2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. And I'm aware that I am talking about numbers, which is the least exciting thing, but please try and stay with me. So that means our person we had before is going to be shooting for 140 to 220 grams of protein per day, which for a lot of people is going to be quite a bit more than they're currently taking in.

It might even feel a little bit unnatural to eat in that way, but the benefits are pretty huge, right? So one thing to note with that range of say 1 .4 to 2 .2, or even I would say probably 1 .4 to 2 is your protein requirements are based on your lean body weight. Okay. So that's not your fat mass. That's your muscle mass, your bone mass, your tendons, your ligaments and things like that. Now, if you know what your

what's called fat free mass is because you've done something like a DEXA scan or even an in -body scan, they're not great, but they'll get you close enough. Then you can go and find the protein recommendations based on your lean body weight. However, what you can do, which is pretty much just as good is just think about your body fat levels. If you are on a higher body fat end of the spectrum, very loosely, I'd say maybe for men, that's over 30 % and for women, that's over 40, 45%.

Then I would encourage you to sit on the lower end of that spectrum. So closer to that 1 .4 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you are a leaner individual, then start moving yourself up that scale closer to say the two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. You will do that math. And like I said, you'll come out to that figure. Let's say for argument's sake, we've got our hundred kilo person who's sitting at around 25 % body fat.

So I would encourage them to shoot for say 1 .5 to 1 .6 grams of protein per day, giving them a target of 150 to 160 grams of protein per day. Hooray. What does that even mean, Jono? So like I said, if you're tracking, that's easy. You punch that into your app and you try and hit that each day. If you are using visual targets, the easiest way to do that is to shoot for having a quarter of a plate.

or kind of one to two palm servings of a protein rich food at every single meal, as well as trying to have at least one protein rich snack per day. We've got a lot of protein snack ideas on our Instagrams, SneakyPlugs. So if you're stuck on what that looks like, make sure you head over there and have a look. But if you're doing that and you're eating at least three meals per day, if you're a kind of a bigger human being, you might want to potentially look at dropping one of your snacks.

and replacing it with a meal. So you're eating say four meals per day. For some of my larger clients, you know, larger muscle mass, you know, I'm a big fan of two lunches, lunch, you know, lunch at 10 lunch at two, because that'll that gives them more opportunities to hit that higher protein target that they might have.

really critical to note that protein intake is not just about muscle gain. Of course it is relevant for muscle gain, but I actually think it's even more important for someone who's trying to improve their appetite regulation, trying to improve their energy levels, or potentially has a goal of fat loss. If any of those things are relevant for you, dear listener, then you need to not worry, but you need to focus on your protein intake.

Protein is not just about getting jacked and swole like all of the bodybuilders out there. In fact, ironically, if your main focus is protein intake, muscle gain, you can get away with a little bit less protein because you should ideally be eating more energy overall. But that's a discussion for another day. Either way, protein intake and a quote unquote higher protein diet, i .e. higher than that RDI of 0 .8 grams per kilogram of body weight is a really good idea for everyone.

protein fills you up. It makes you feel fuller for longer. So you're going to feel more satisfied. You're going to notice that each meal supports you for longer. You're not going to get hungry 90 minutes after breakfast. Now there's other things of course, in your meals that also manage your appetite, like fiber, food volume, all of these other things, which are still really relevant, but for the goal of this podcast, everything protein, that's what I'm going to be focusing on. So really helpful for the appetite.

It can improve your energy levels as well because it can kind of slow down your digestion absorption of that food giving you a better glucose response. I'm not going down the glucose goddess path, but you know, having a more balanced response to a meal still helps improve your energy levels and appetite regulation. It's helpful for fat loss because A, if you're feeling full and satisfied for longer after a meal, that's probably going to make it easier to stick to your goals rather than if you are less satisfied and hungrier after a meal.

Protein has a higher thermic effect of feeding. It's a minor difference, but over time it can definitely add up. Basically what that means is your body uses a little bit more energy to break down and digest protein than it does say carbohydrates and fats, which is why you can see people make claims about protein powder speeding up your metabolism. Because I guess in a very, if we're being very generous, it technically does, but.

Like I said, it's still a very mild effect. So that and the one other thing it can help with, or can help with lots of other things, but specifically for fat loss is it can help retain lean body mass. So when we are in a fat loss phase, we're at a higher risk of muscle loss. Now, if you're doing proper resistance training, you're not being silly with your dieting practices, you're still pretty low risk for losing muscle, but having a high protein intake really helps protect.

against any potential muscle loss or bone density loss.

outside of extreme cases. Man, my whole brain is caveats, but I guess that's nutrition, right? So if I've missed something, please send all hate mail to my email address, which I won't tell you. So you have to go find it. So you have to really, really want to send that hate mail. So hopefully we are comfortable with total daily protein intake. Now the next conversation then is how do I space that out? What do I actually make that look like across the day? Like I said,

three, maybe four meals is a good idea for lots of people. If you have particularly high protein targets, you might find that you'll do three or four meals plus a really high protein snack like whey protein or just any protein powder or high protein yogurt. One of those really protein efficient snacks, which is a phrase I'll talk about in a second. So you might need to manipulate some of these recommendations I'm about to say, but as a rough guide,

take your protein target that you have, think about how many times you typically eat in a day and divide it by that. So let's say for our person who's shooting for 160 grams of protein per day, they typically eat three times. So I would divide 160 by three. I should have done that earlier. What's that gonna be? 55 ish grams of protein per meal. Now let's say that they also usually have a snack. So maybe we drop that back to say 45 grams.

of protein per meal, which should get them to about 130, 140. And then we just need to make sure that their snack has about 20 grams of protein. So you can see how you can kind of quickly divide it up like that. In terms of what is the most optimal spacing to my knowledge, if you're eating at least two, probably better to do three times per day. So you're spreading that protein serve out across at least three serves per day, you're fine.

I don't think we've seen anything to suggest that four or five or six servings of protein per day are better than two or three or four servings of protein per day, providing you are hitting that total daily protein intake target that we talked about before. Now, of course there's like logistical considerations, i .e. if you are only eating twice per day and you're a human being that needs to eat 250 grams of protein a day, good luck.

Those are going to be two pretty epic serves of protein, but you can kind of, you know, play around with that yourself and figure out what works best for you. Slight tangent. We've already talked about this in a previous podcast, but it's probably still important to note here at this point, your body can absorb and digest and use more than 30 grams of protein at a time. So please don't yet let that number influence your decision making at all. It's very, very old, wrong science. Well, it's not science. It's just, it's wrong.

So if you wanted to put some other numbers around that, you could look at a server protein being about 0 .3 to 0 .55 grams per kilogram of body weight. So using our other human, that's around 30 to 55 grams of protein per serve. So, which kind of sits in that exact recommendation I spoke about of taking your total target and dividing it by the number of times you want to eat in the day. So you can come at it from a very math -based angle.

or you can come at it from a more pragmatic, practical, not pragmatic, practical angle of, well, this is how much protein I have to eat in the day. This is how I like to eat. How can I combine those two things? And that's the spacing out of it. Now, just in terms of training, you want to ideally have a good source of protein an hour or two before training or within an hour or two of finishing training.

Both is also perfectly fine, but we see in most of the literature if you at least do one of those, you don't necessarily need to rush to do the other. Other than that, I would just recommend to space your meals out relatively evenly throughout the day in the way that best suits your lifestyle, your energy levels, and best manages your hunger. I .e. eating one meal at 6 a .m. and three meals at 4 p .m., 6 p .m. and 8 p .m. is probably not the spacing I would recommend, even if it allows you to hit...

your total daily protein target. Cool. Now, in terms of the actual protein sources, so the foods themselves, one thing I always like to be very, to make, what am I trying to say? To make very clear, pardon me, I just punched my microphone. When I'm talking about 150, 160 grams of protein, I'm talking about the protein content of the food, not the weight of the food. So I have seen quite a few people,

confuse that and think say, for example, I'm saying that human being needs 160 grams of chicken breast a day. No, 100 grams of chicken breast contains about 20 grams of protein. So you would need to make sure that you're looking up the protein component of that food either in your tracking app, or you're checking it in those databases I discussed so you can eyeball it.

So yes, talking about the protein content of the food. And then that kind of leads us to this idea of say protein, quote unquote, efficiency, which is this idea of how many grams of protein I get per 100 calories of a food. So the higher the grams of protein per hundred calories I get, the more protein efficient that food is because most food contains protein, you know, to, to, to, yeah, most food does, but in very different amounts.

And so, for example, 100 calories of worth of chicken breast is going to give you about 21 grams of protein. Whereas 100 calories of tofu is going to give you about 10 grams of protein. And 100 calories worth of peanut butter is going to give you five grams of protein. Now, hopefully you can see how that information might influence your food choices. And so it would be important to look that up and make sure that you're picking the protein efficient sources that are most relevant for you.

and your goals. So a lot of clients with high energy demands find, you know, some of these quote unquote, less protein efficient foods, more helpful because they can eat more of them, it helps them get more calories in, and it helps them achieve their targets. Whereas, on the flip side of the equation, if you're trying to maybe get into a bit of a deficit, but keep protein high, those can be quite antagonistic goals, if you will, you know,

uh, the lower calorie targets you have, the harder it can be to still hit those protein targets. So you'll find that you'll need to be shooting for these more protein efficient foods, things like chicken breast, whey protein, high protein yoghurts, egg whites, um, TVP textured vegetable protein, um, some, some of other soy products, all of those things are going to be more helpful if you're say shooting for a high protein, lower calorie diet.

So yeah, that's your food source. I'm not gonna rattle off a list of protein containing foods. You can just Google that. And then the goal would be to make sure, if you're not tracking, the goal would be to make sure that you're including at least one or two of these foods that's taking up roughly a quarter of your plate or one to two palm -sized servings per meal per day. And that's gonna get you pretty darn close to the total daily protein intake I recommended before.

I think the last thing we probably just need to talk about is around plant proteins versus animal proteins, because there's a lot of garbage out there about that. Yes, animal based protein options are more easily digestible and they typically have a slightly better amino acid profile. Amino acids are just the building blocks of proteins. So one protein is lots of amino acids strung together. The reality is if you are eating a variety of

plant -based protein sources. You don't have to worry about the amino acid thing. And if you are, I would take that protein recommendation that I gave before, calculate it for your body weight and then maybe bump it up by 10 to 20%. And that is going to offset any reduction in digestion or absorption that we might experience from plant -based proteins. So coming back to our human that's shooting for 160 grams of protein.

I might encourage them to shoot for 176 to far out fast maths. I don't know, like 170 to 190 grams of protein instead of 160 grams. That slight bump and increase in protein intake is absolutely going to offset the slightly lower digestion and absorption. And then you're done. We don't, if you're doing those things, we do not see any difference in muscle gain or your recovery or performance between plant -based or animal -based.

proteins so you can pick the thing that suits your lifestyle and preferences the best. All right, we've gone through tracking protein intake, we've gone through total daily protein intake, we've gone through why the RDI is so low and why that's not a bad thing, we just need to take it for what it is. We've talked about why protein is important, we've gone through protein sources, we've talked about spacing and timing. I think I've done it. I think I have spoken about everything protein.

If that's not true, if you've got questions that I haven't answered, please, please, please flick me an Instagram DM or shoot me an email. If this has been valuable, I would greatly, greatly appreciate you putting it up in your stories and tagging me. It's really cool to see the podcast out in the wild. And even more valuable, I think, is if you, if there's someone in your life who you know has been struggling with this or is unsure of how to calculate, calculate, that's a hard word to say, calculate these things.

please send them this podcast so they can get it sorted. Otherwise, I'll chat to you next time.