Protein Basics

When doing intense workouts like P90X or Insanity, it is extremely important to make sure you’re fueling your body with enough protein so that your muscles can repair and grow.  But it can be confusing as to how much protein you really need and where you should get it from.  I see a lot of questions around these two subjects.  How much protein should I be eating and what food sources should I be getting the protein from?

First, it’s important to read your nutrition guide and figure out what plan will work best for you.  A very popular plan is the fat shredder plan, which has you eating 50% of your calories from protein.  So for example, if you determined your calorie intake should be 2000 calories a day, then you need to eat 1000 calories of protein which is a lot!  With protein containing 4 calories per gram, that means you need 250 grams of protein every single day!  That’s what I followed my entire round of P90X.  So first off, make sure to read your nutrition plan and figure out your calorie target and the percentages of protein/carbs/fat.

Once you know how many grams of protein you need, then the next question is, where do you get all that protein?  Your diet should consist of lots of lean meats, egg whites, beans, and non-fat dairy, but often it’s difficult to eat enough of those things to get enough protein in.  So what I do is use whey protein powder along with Shakeology to make sure I get enough protein in.  Shakeology is fairly high in protein, with 17 grams per serving, but I also supplement with other protein powder.  I have used two types of protein powder mainly.  I think it’s critical to use protein powder because it’s an easy way to get a lot of protein and it’s much cheaper than trying to eat more chicken or other lean meat.  Most people use whey protein powder, and that is by far the most popular kind of protein powder out there.  I have read mixed reviews on soy protein powder and it possibly having negative effects on estrogen levels, so I stay away from that.  I’ve also read a lot about concentrate vs. isolate and it seems that people who push one over the other usually just sell the one that they are in favor of.  Personally, I don’t worry about concentrate vs. isolate.

First, I’ve used Cytosport Whey protein powder, made by Muscle Milk and sold at Costco.  I use this because it has 27 grams of protein per scoop and also includes some BCAA’s.  It’s also the least expensive protein powder I can find.  A 6 lb. bag is only $32, which is a really good deal.  Typically, I’ll take 2-3 scoops per day.

The other kind I’ve used most often is Wheybolic Extreme 60 from GNC.  This is is more expensive, at $50 for a 3 lb. tub.  The reason I use this is that it has a high percentage of protein.  Most of the calories come from protein, and it also includes my daily need of glutamine, so I don’t have to buy that separately.  The extra glutamine really makes this more affordable than it seems at first.  Plus I’m a gold card member and I typically wait until they have a sale going on.

So if you’re looking for some inexpensive protein powder, definitely check out Costco or Sam’s Club, but if you’re looking for a higher quality protein, I would recommend the Wheybolic Extreme 60 from GNC.  I really like both, so I think you can’t lose either way.

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