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Protein for Beginners

Protein is one of the three macro nutrients, including fat and carbohydrate. It is essential that active people include adequate amounts of protein in their diets to ensure they maximise the training effect, maintain or increase muscle mass and to ensure good health, growth and repair.

Proteins provide the building blocks of skeletal muscle via their constituent amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in total. 9 of which are essential (EAA’s) and 11 which are non essential (NEAA’s). The essential aminos cannot be made in the body so they must be consumed in the diet.

Animal and dairy based proteins are considered to be complete proteins because they contain a higher percentage of EAA’s. Foods such as eggs, dairy (whey and casein), meat and fish are all high quality sources. Vegetarians can still meet their protein requirements but they will have to mix a variety of sources such as nuts, beans, grains and soy.

Protein cannot be stored in the body and must therefore be eaten on a regular basis. Protein should be distributed evenly over the course of the day, with a quality source in each meal. Many people tend to eat in a skewed fashion consuming little protein in breakfast and lunch and a large dose at dinner. This is a common problem with a large proportion of people.

A better practice would be to eat 20-35 g of protein in a whole meal, 3-4 times a day. It is recommended that active people should get a minimum of 1.5 g/BW of protein in their diet. So if you weight 80kg, you should be getting around 120 of protein per day. This equates to 4 meals of 30 g each.

30 grams of protein would look like: medium breast of chicken/turkey, salmon fillet, large tin of tuna, scoop whey protein, 5 eggs, 2 cups of lentils/beans etc.

Athletes who consumed the highest quality protein and those who ate regular protein feeds had greater bone mineral density, lean mass and less body fat.

Protein timing around exercise is also an important variable for athletes to consider. In general, athletes who consume protein before and/or after exercise experience greater adaptations than those who do not. Muscle is broken down during exercise resulting in a negative protein balance. Consuming protein after training will stimulate protein synthesis and improve protein balance. Thus facilitating the training effect.


Eat regular meals containing 20-35 g of quality sources of protein.

Eat protein pre and post exercise.

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