'Eat Right' Challenge, Protein - Day 11

Emma White - Nutritionist

We asked Fitness Expert Helen to share a few questions she often gets asked by clients.

If I exercise a lot, do I need to eat more protein?

As you exercise, your muscles form tiny tears, so your body responds by repairing the muscle fibres, resulting in muscle growth. Your body needs protein (and adequate rest) for this repair and growth to occur. An ideal protein intake would be between 1.6-2g of protein per 1kg of your goal body weight if you are doing lots of exercise with the aim to build muscle.

So if your goal bodyweight is 64kg, your ideal daily protein intake should be 102-128g per day.

Will strength training make me bulk up?

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around lifting weights, particularly with women, despite being one of the most beneficial forms of exercise for both men and women.

A common misconception is that weight training will result in a bulky appearance, when the reality is that building muscle is hard and achieving the 'body building' look that so many people associate with weights needs to be done with intent and a great deal of dedication!

Aside from the aesthetic benefits of weight training – the 'toned' appearance so many strive for is achieved by building muscle and losing body fat – there are many other benefits, including:

  • Increased strength
  • Body fat reduction
  • Increased resting metabolic rate – muscle burns calories even when you're resting
  • Reduced risk of sarcopenia (muscle loss with age) – in the general population, this tends to start in the late 20s / early 30s
  • Development of strong bones – helping prevent osteoporosis
  • Managing arthritis and joint pain

A further comment on the third point above – having a good metabolic rate is really important for weight maintenance. So while you are on your weight loss journey, think of strength training as an investment for the future. Of course, it burns calories when you are working out, but the lasting benefit is how it changes your body composition. The greater the percentage of lean muscle in your body, the more calories your body will burn, even at rest.

Weight training has so many benefits – don't let a stereotype stop you from giving it a go!

Are protein shakes and powders worth it?

Protein should be a dominant macronutrient in your diet. Most people get enough protein in their diet, but if you find it hard to fulfil your daily requirements, having protein shakes and powders can be a convenient way to help reach your protein target if you struggle to achieve it through food sources.

There are several types of protein powder and shakes available. These are generally split into dairy (whey protein) or plant-based (soy, hemp or pea). They can be bought online or from health food shops. Do your research and be aware that women don't need specific 'women only' protein (with a pink label) – this is often an advertising ploy!

Choose one with about 20g of protein per serving which is also low in calories, fat and additives.

A great idea is to add a scoop of protein powder to a smoothie, porridge or yoghurt to make a tasty snack!

Check out answers to some other common exercise questions.

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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