After reading our last blog, you may find yourself wondering: is there a right time for me to eat extra protein? When should I eat most of my protein? While these questions seem simple and easily answered, there is actually quite a bit to delve into.
For starters, the best time to eat protein... is all the time. Really! You should be eating anywhere from 10 to 25 grams of protein for each meal that you eat, and as part of that you should be aiming for about 0.7 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. Because protein is crucial to the body’s development and recovery, it’s important to eat protein as often as possible (but not as much as possible). For the average person without serious underlying health conditions, just eating a portion of complete protein with every meal is enough. Plus, eating enough protein with each meal or snack is beneficial for your appetite and will keep you satisfied between portions; moreso than just a bowl of cereal or something similar. For more on what it means for your protein to be complete, check out our last article here.
While eating protein with every meal is great, there are better times than others to get larger amounts of protein in. Typically, if you’re eating your pre-workout meal, it’s actually a good idea to drop the protein a little bit in favor of more carbs, especially complex carbs, to fuel your workout. This is because protein will take a lot longer to digest than carbs, and you may feel more sluggish during your workout because your body will be using more energy to digest your meal. So in that sense, it’s better to eat more carbs than protein before a workout since the carbs will turn into glycogen, feeding your muscle activity directly. It’s better to save the protein for after the workout when it can repair your fatigued muscles.
All this can change depending on your needs, however. If you’re an athlete, for example, your protein needs are going to be much higher due to a higher percentage of lean body mass, in addition to more overall exercise increasing your need for protein (and overall calories,too). The more you exercise or work your body, the more protein you’ll need to compensate for your overall recovery.
So where should you get your protein from? Fortunately, there’s lots of options for anyone trying to add more protein into their diet. Eggs, fish, beef, chicken, and pork all make excellent choices for protein sources. Plant-based sources like nuts, tempeh, hemp seeds and chia seeds also are options for meat free Mondays or someone who has chosen a vegetarian/vegan diet. At Caveman, being balanced is an important aspect of life, so we recommend keeping your diet balanced too and switching it up every now and then. Don’t be afraid to try something new!
That being said, make sure that you don’t add too much protein to your diet. If you add in too much protein without reducing other macronutrients in your diet, you can end up gaining weight since excess protein is typically stored as fat in your body. Additionally, going overboard with your protein consumption can lead to other side effects, such as kidney damage, heart disease, and colorectal cancer. Most of these risks can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water, limiting your protein intake to just what you need (0.7 to 1.2 grams per pound of lean body mass), and eating a blend of complete animal and plant proteins.
So that’s it! Just make sure you’re eating the appropriate amount of protein, save the protein for after your workouts, and switch up your protein sources. Balance is key to good health, and the same goes for protein! Thanks for reading and we can’t wait to see you in the next blog. Until then, stay healthy, Cave-fans!