Protein! How much do you really need?

Have you ever wondered how much protein you actually need on a daily basis? There’s so much mixed information out there that it can really be confusing. I will tell you from my own experience however that the times I grew the most muscle and leaned down, was when I was clocking my protein intake on myfitnesspal app. I was probably taking around 70-80grams a day. Of course, I was lifting weights on a daily basis as well.


Just the other day I tuned into one of my favorite health and wellness podcasts “Better Everyday” with Dr. Brooke and Sarah Fragoso. They always have some really great guests on the show. This particular day, they interviewed Dr. Gabrielle Lyon who is a trained physician specializing in muscle centric medicine. She had also competed in fitness competitions, so knew a thing or two about protein.

My notes come directly from that podcast which you can access HERE

Let’s get on with it. Dr. Lyon mentioned that Protein is known as the black sheep of the macro scale because protein has a face. People think about animal sustainability and it can be emotional for some. I know I have felt this way from time to time for sure. One day I’m completely fine eating animal protein. The next, I won’t touch it at all. It’s hard to know where to draw the line sometimes, but protein is a macronutrient that needs to be prioritized in your meals. People misunderstand protein all the time and load up on carbs instead. But how easy is it to overeat protein and veggies? At some point, you feel full and want no more of that. What an amazing signal our bodies give us in regards to portion sizes when eating protein and veggies. It’s very hard to store protein as fat and it has a direct effect on muscle tissue. On the other hand, It’s easy to overeat carbs and drive insulin.  How many times have you eaten that entire bag of chips and didn’t even realize it until they were gone? And what about those Oreo cookies? You promised yourself you’d only eat a couple, but that turned into 7! Can you see how easy it actually is to overeat carbs. That’s why American’s look the way they do.

So why are we scared of protein? You may have heard that it’s bad for your kidneys, but the data is clear that protein actually increases your ability for kidney’s to function. The issue is with carbohydrates and kidney function. Carbs in excess cause diabetes. Diabetes destroys your kidneys. Protein can help your kidneys.

Protein is also great for bone health. The research is clear that diets low in protein are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Protein is showing in data that it’s actually necessary for bone protection. Eat protein for bone.

Protein is amazing for brain function. Think of all the neurotransmitters that benefit. Protein increases satiety. As you increase your protein (and good fats), cravings and high appetite will start to go away.

Maybe you’re afraid you’ll bulk up too much. I can tell you from experience that you won’t at all. In fact, you’ll be happier with a leaner, toner body if you’re getting enough protein and lifting heavy weights as well.

Women are underestimating their protein needs. They grab eggs first thing in the morning but not eating nearly enough. You’d need to eat like 6 eggs in the morning to get the amount of protein you actually need. How about cooking up some of last nights leftover chicken or beef and eating it with a side of eggs and cooked spinach for breakfast? Your first meal of the day sets you up for a metabolic advantage. Try and eat a breakfast of at least 30g of clean protein. Clean protein would be quality sourced proteins such as organic chicken, grass-fed beef, pastured eggs etc… If you’re drinking a protein shake, again I’d suggest sourcing a high quality brand and not something random you pick up off the shelf at Wal-Mart.

So how much protein do you actually need?

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon says women need a minimum of 90 grams a day. If you want to change your metabolism, optimize your hormones, have longevity, and have good bone health, you need to be eating 30g of protein 3 times a day. You can also do 50g at each meal if you are doing intermittent fasting and skipping a meal. Everyone should be getting a minimum of 90g and distributed throughout the day. You can track this in the myfitnesspal app. In addition, she mentions that animal protein is different from plant protein. If you’re on a plant based diet (vegetarian or vegan) and you’re drinking a hemp protein shake, you really need to take double the amount you normally would. The body sees only 1/2 of what you’re taking in because of the lower branch chain amino acid content. And you really need 2.5 g of leucine to trigger that muscle protein synthesis. Vegetarians can and should supplement with BCAA’s.

I think it’s viable to consider animal protein for health, but whatever diet is working for you and your lifestyle/beliefs, please stick with that. It’s helpful just to know that our macronutrients have a hormonal response and you need those nutrients for your personal needs (skin, hair, bones, muscle etc..). Protein has a great hormonal response as well. It can actually help with adrenals.

Back to protein and carbs: If you’re going to base your meals on protein, it has a less negative metabolic effect than basing it on carbs or excess fat. And you can’t possibly overeat chicken and vegetables. It’s hard. You hit a point where you’re done, which really tells you something. That’s good hormone feedback. But again, you can overeat carbs and still want more. That’s so fascinating to me.

BCAA’s, also known as branch chain amino acids are a very important supplement to take. Muscle utilizes branch chains. If you drink BCAA’s during a workout you’ll be utilizing it for energy and not muscle repair, so it’s recommended to take it post workout. However, you can decide when you take your BCAA’s. Just find a good brand.

Great tips for getting results:

  1. If you’re training really heavy, you can have some carbohydrates for glycogen repletion. Carbohydrates are not necessary unless you are really training.
  2. When you think about muscle repair, think about a protein you tolerate well. For some people that is Whey. For others, it might just be some ground up bison or grass-fed beef.
  3. You want to keep your fat fuels lower post workout. Less than 6 grams.
  4. having 25 g. of protein post workout or as close to that number as you can is ideal. It doesn’t have to be a protein shake. In fact, some people can’t do shakes at all, but It should be fast absorption. Drink bcaa’s and eat real food.

How about creatine for women?

Creatine for women is actually highly recommended. It’s great for muscle mass and brain function. Take 1-2 grams a day. It’s an  excellent supplement. Look for brand “Seeking Health”.

Should you eat before you work out?

If you’re having blood sugar issues, take 25grams of protein and 30g of carbs before your workout! This is where it’s just fine to eat some carbs.

If you’re looking to burn fat, it’s not necessary to eat pre workout at all….unless you have some hormone issues. AND, fat loss does not have to be your goal either. Think about getting stronger or gaining endurance. Maximize your time at the gym for the goals that you have.

We had a great chat today about protein and the body! I hope this was helpful to you. As a Health Coach, I would probably have you experiment with this advice and see how it feels for you. If you feel like it’s too much protein, listen to your body and back off. If however, you see yourself getting the results you desperately have been wanting, then this might have been the little tweak you were looking for. Play around with it. And again, if you follow a plant-based diet, this can totally apply to you as well. Just double your intake of protein. Many many people have great looking muscle on a plant-based diet. It all comes down to knowledge and putting things into action. Now that you have this information, what do you want to do with it?

I wish you all the best in your health and wellness goals this year! –Health Coach Heather

Now go listen to that podcast with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon HERE

And it might be worth your time to listen to this podcast as well:

And if you’re just really intrigued by this whole protein topic, I would Google Dr. Donald Layman. He’s a researcher and the Grandfather of protein metabolism.

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