Macronutrients: Protein

If you’ve ever looked into different nutrition options or diet plans, you may have heard of counting macros.  This is a plan where you determine a specific macronutrient count for each of the three macronutrients and then eat the amount of food needed to meet these counts. This is often an effective plan for many people to help them meet their goals, whether it be weight loss, muscle gain, or improved athletic performance.

But first, what are Macronutrients?  Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  These three macronutrients along with vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), make up our food. They affect a ton of processes in our body, including how much lean mass (such as muscle) and body fat we have, our immune system, our metabolic function, and more. 

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about protein. Getting enough protein is very important for everyone. Without enough protein intake our bodies can’t function very well.  However, it is especially important for those of us trying to improve our body composition.  Protein causes a few key effects that can help us both lose weight and increase muscle.  

First, your body has to do more to process the protein you eat than it does for carbohydrates or fat.  This is called the thermic effect of feeding and it means that your body has to do more work, and therefore burn more calories, just trying to process protein than it will processing carbohydrates and fat, which can be helpful when trying to lose weight.  

Also, protein helps us feel full longer, since not only is it more work to process protein, it also takes our bodies longer to process it completely. 

And lastly, protein helps us build muscle.  If you’re a CrossFitter, you’re most likely very interested in this benefit of protein.  However, even if you’re just looking for weight loss, this is still very important.  The more muscle you have the easier it will be to lose weight and keep it off in the future, as muscle burns more calories than fat even while you are at rest.

The amount of protein you need each day is dependent on your size and activity level.  Generally, for the average CrossFitter you want it to be about 30% of our diet.  You also want to make sure you are getting a good amount of protein at each meal so you can keep your metabolism up and stay full throughout the day.  

A great way to make sure you’re getting enough protein each day is to include about a palm sized amount of lean protein if you’re female (or two palms if you’re male) with each meal.  Great choices are lean beef, chicken, turkey, lean pork, and fish and shellfish.  

We love talking about nutrition here at CrossFit Erie, so if you feel like you need help getting started on a new nutrition plan, or just have questions and want to talk, we’d love to hear from you!