The Ultimate Macronutrient

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Ryan Day Coaching

Hello hello!

The first blog post of 2024 is upon us. For those of you who are new around here – welcome! If you like what you read today, you can check out all the 2023 content here.

Given my email newsletter’s namesake, Set the Tone Sunday, I thought it appropriate to set the tone for all of 2024 today by exploring the most important macronutrient. In fact, it’s so important that just by consuming more of it, you might find yourself losing body fat, putting on muscle, feeling more satiated after meals, feeling more energized throughout the day, and maybe even sleeping better.

What is this miracle macro? If you guessed Protein – congratulations, you’re a winner.

Today, we’ll talk about what protein is, why it’s so important, why you should probably consume more of it, high-quality protein sources, and easy tricks to get more protein every day.

Protein as a macronutrient

Here’s the quick and dirty on protein. First and foremost – proteins are often called the building blocks of life, and for good reason. Every cell in the human body contains protein, and protein is critical for building and maintaining your body’s structure.

Every protein is made up of amino acids bound together. Think of a protein as one of those candy necklaces but instead of pieces of candy, it’s amino acids. So, really, amino acids could also be considered the building blocks of life. Tomato, to-mah-to.

Each gram of protein is 4 calories (carbs are also 4 calories, and fats are 9). Along with fat, protein is considered an “essential” macronutrient because your body can’t make enough of it on its own for survival, which means you have to get it through your diet.

Why protein is important

Male or female – you NEED to eat protein. If you’re a female and you’re worried that eating too much protein is going to make you bulky – it’s not. You’d have to lift weights for decades in combination with some form of “enhancement” (if you catch my drift) to get super bulky. Eat your protein.

That said, protein is not just for muscle-building, but it is crucial for #gainz, so let’s start there and then walk through some other important roles of protein. Here we go:

Muscle Development and Repair

The most well-known benefit of protein is its role in building and repairing tissues, especially muscles. Whether you’re a gym enthusiast or someone just trying to maintain muscle mass, protein is your ally for development and recovery.

Enzyme and Hormone Production

Proteins build enzymes and hormones, acting as biological catalysts and messengers that regulate reactions and processes all through our body.

Keeps You Full

Protein is the most filling of the three macronutrients. There are two big reasons for this. First, it reduces the amount of ghrelin in your system, which is the hormone that makes you hungry.

Second, it increases peptide YY, which is a hormone that makes you feel full. Try eating your protein first at your next meal and pay attention to your hunger after.

Immune System Support

Components of the immune system, like antibodies, are made of proteins. Sufficient protein intake actually enhances the body’s ability to defend against infections.

Structural Support

Proteins provide structural support to cells and tissues, contributing to the maintenance of healthy skin, bones, and overall structural integrity.

Energy Source

While not the primary source, proteins can be used for energy when other sources are insufficient. However, relying on protein for energy is not ideal, as its primary functions lie in tissue building and repair.

Recommended Daily Protein Intake

Take the recommended amount of protein on your nutrition labels and throw it out the window. Seriously, it’s a garbage recommendation.

Your ideal protein intake depends on factors like age, sex, activity level, and health goals. For most people, 0.5 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight should be the absolute minimum to support healthy muscle tissue and bodily functions. What does that look like?

If you’re 200 pounds and want to weigh 150 pounds, eat 75g (150 x 0.5) of protein every day.

HOWEVER, even 0.5g is still too low IMO. Everyone I work with is consuming, at minimum, 0.7g per pound of ideal body weight, and most are closer to 1g per pound of ideal body weight or above.

In most cases, the closer you can get to 1g per pound of ideal body weight, the better.

The main reason I recommend this amount: Protein fills you up and keeps you satiated which is great for people trying to lose weight. If you’re 150 pounds and eating 150g of protein per day, that is going to make you pretty full and less likely to binge on other foods.

If your goal isn’t to lose weight, but gain weight, eating this much protein will also accelerate your muscle growth. So it works both ways.

All this said, there are certainly instances where high-protein diets might not be suitable, so check with your doctor if you have concerns about eating more protein.

If you’re unsure of how much protein you’re currently eating, download a food-tracking app like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to find out. If you’re ready to start eating more protein, here are some great sources.

Protein Sources: An Abundance of Choices

I have brought you fantastic news: Meeting protein goals doesn’t mean eating chicken breasts and tilapia every day of your life. Hard to believe, I know. Lucky for us, God created a world with protein everywhere. Almost like he knew its importance.

Here are some of my favorite sources (with the ones I eat the most frequently bolded).

  • Poultry: Chicken (breast or thighs), turkey, duck
  • Meat: Grass-fed beef, lamb, venison
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, cod, sardines
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, whey protein powder
  • Eggs aka Nature’s Multivitamin
  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, chia seeds
  • Whole Grains: Quinoa, farro
  • Tofu and Tempeh
  • Plant-Based Alternatives: Pea protein, hemp protein, and plant-based powders

Notice this list includes the meat, dairy, fish, and eggs first. There’s a reason for that. Read on.

Protein Quality: Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins

Proteins are classified as complete or incomplete based on their amino acid profile. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids (those you have to get through your diet) while incomplete proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids.

This is important (especially with all the vegan and plant-based propaganda BS out there these days): Animal sources are typically complete, while plant sources may need strategic combinations for a comprehensive amino acid profile.

In short, animal protein sources are generally more well-rounded in terms of getting you all the amino acids you need and typically deliver a more robust nutrient profile as well.

Ways to Get More Protein

My best tip is to get protein at each meal. If you eat three meals a day, break up your daily goal into equal parts for each meal. For example, if you want to eat 150g per day, eat 50g at each meal. If 8 PM rolls around and you still have 100g of protein to eat, good luck.

Next – find some high-protein foods you eat every single day. For me, I have Greek yogurt as a snack and an oatmeal concoction with whey protein for breakfast which I eat daily. Together, these give me 65g of protein, which makes it feel like I’m going into each day with a head start. This makes it really easy to get the rest of the protein I need throughout the day by eating eggs, meat, nuts, beans, milk, etc.

FAQs on Protein Timing

Two really common questions I get:

  • Can I eat my protein all at once or does it need to be spread out throughout the day?
  • Do I need to eat protein right after I workout?

The answer to both of these questions is, of course, it depends. However, here are my blanket answers that are suitable for most people:

  • Getting enough protein is generally more important than the timing of protein intake. That said, you’re going to find it way easier to get the recommended amount of 1g/pound of ideal body weight if you split it up throughout the day.
  • If you’re an athlete doing two-a-days or something like that, getting protein right after a workout is ideal. If you’re not an athlete, you’re splitting hairs when it comes to protein after a workout. However (and I always have a “however”), the habit of drinking a protein shake right after a workout is an easy way to build more protein into your day. So, if protein after your workout keeps you consistent with getting enough protein, by all means, do it.

Embrace the Power of Protein

Protein is not just a fitness buzzword; it’s fundamental for sustaining life. Whether for muscle development, fat loss, immune support, or overall well-being, protein plays a central role.

Protein is so important, and I could write forever on this stuff. It’s really difficult to capture all the information about protein in a single, readable newsletter. To that extent, there will be more detailed information related to protein throughout the rest of the year. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions or would like me to break something down for you, let me know.

Until next time,

Ryan