You’re Eating the Wrong Amount of Protein and at the Wrong Time…

Wrong Amount of Protein

To begin, this is not for you elite level athletes out there. Each and every one of you have special dietary requirements that far exceed the needs of 99% of the CrossFit community. You probably already have a nutritionist on retainer, or minimally have an understanding of your individual needs. Sorry guys, this one is for the majority that are faced with countless opinions and feel lost in the myriad of available information.

Background: We’re going to go down the rabbit hole here a bit, just try to stick with it. Everyone has heard of the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) and the acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDRs) whether or not they realize it. The DRIs and AMDRs are produced by the Institutes of Medicine in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Board; this group of professionals volunteer and work independent of government agencies to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to policy makers and the public at large. [1]

Conventional recommendations provided by this group say individuals should take in the following range of calories from each of the macronutrients: 45-65% from carbohydrates, 20-35% fats and 10-35% protein. These ranges are set to reduce the risk of chronic disease while providing adequate intakes of essential nutrients. It’s important to note these ranges apply to the general, healthy population. They are set at level of adequacy, and not for optimal performance. With such ranges how is one to know what they should really take in? Well the answer isn’t completely cut-and-dry… it’s largely going to depend on your goals.

For the sake of brevity, we will examine the two most common goals for CrossFitters.

Tyler Lasley

Body Composition

So you started CrossFit because you want to look good naked right? Coaches across the world have heard this exact line thousands of times. You’ve taken the first step of joining a community, you’re learning technique, and you’ve got your name on the white board. But no matter what you do in the box, you look in the mirror and you’re not shredded like Jason Khalipa or Christmas Abbott. So what gives? Chances are you’ve embraced the spirit of the community, but you’ve yet to really hear what your coaches are telling you. As a trainer, the job is to tear you apart and rebuild you from day one. At the box, you’re not getting better, you’re literally being ripped apart.

This is how physiology works; muscle fibers are stretched and torn with every exercise you do. Yes, you’re lifting more weight, your Fran time is dropping, but you’re being beaten down daily. The gainz are found at home through your recovery and hopefully you’ve guessed it, through your diet. Don’t demonize one macronutrient (aka Carbs), but instead look to optimize your intake of all foods. For body composition, your protein focus needs to be on timing. The typical American diet is heavily skewed to the evening. Too many carbs first thing in the day with minimal protein, and too much protein for dinner with not enough balance. Current literature shows three meals a day may be the most beneficial for appetite control, satiety (fullness) and body composition, so while the “Bros” at the globogym say you need to eat every 2 hours, chances are you don’t. [2] Instead, strive to evenly distribute your protein throughout the day. There also appears to be some sort of optimal threshold for protein synthesis (read: keeping your gainz), that is between 25-35 grams per meal.[3]

To summarize, try eating three meals a day and aim for 30g of protein at each occasion if you’re looking to drop a little weight and tone up.

Performance

You’re a Fire Breather, competing is where you’ve set your sights. You’re killing WODs, but feel exhausted for hours after the workout. Some days you literally feel like you’ve run into a brick wall. Your lifts are improving, but you’ve realized that one thing yet to come around is your nutrition. You’re the easier fix. Chances are high that you’re simply under-eating for the amount of work you perform. As a whole, you are not normal, but that’s not a bad thing. The good news is that the RDAs do not apply to you. You’re going to up most of your macros, but most importantly you’re going to up your protein significantly. You’re going to have to do a little work here, but for an athletic person protein intake should range from 1.2-1.8g/kg/day.[4] For a 180 pound person that equates to 98g-147g of protein per day. This amount is to reduce protein breakdown, support protein synthesis, and promote a positive net protein balance (again read: keeping your gainz). Yes, you may want both of these– but unfortunately you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can only have one master at a time. That doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive though.

If you concentrate on performance and fueling your body, the chances that you’ll improve your composition are incredibly high. Just remember to eat quality foods in moderation, and to get your protein in. The results will come.

Tyler is an owner and trainer CrossFit Fringe in Columbia, MO. He is currently working towards a MS/PhD in Nutritional Science with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri. His athletic background revolves around the sport Rugby. He has also worked with Athletic Performance at MU, helping to coach scholarship athletes in the areas of nutrition, strength and conditioning. Specialties include: CrossFit Level One, CrossFit Coach’s Prep, CrossFit Kids, CrossFit Mobility, CrossFit Endurance, Attitude Nation Level One, Naka Freestyle Gymnastics, NSCA-CSCS. He can be reached at tyler@crossfitfringe.com

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