Are you one that thinks if a little protein is good, a lot must be better? In a recent report that studied myofibrillar muscle protein response after resistance exercise, it found 20 grams after a workout seemed to be the correct amount that provided the most benefit for the average individual. In amounts higher, it not only did not provide any additional benefits but actually could be harmful.

Too much protein increases ammonia production which must be filtered out by the kidneys thus putting them under additional stress. Because the kidneys are working harder, you’ll get rid of more water as urine. This can lead to dehydration – one of the warning signs of eating too much protein. If you are eating a high protein diet, drink more water than you usually do to account for the extra amount needed to stay hydrated and keep your kidneys functioning properly.

 

So what do 20 grams of protein look like? 3-4 large eggs, 8 ounces of beef, chicken or fish, a couple of scoops of whey protein, or a handful of nuts in a bowl of quinoa or another amino acid-rich whole grain (like Amaranth, Barley or Oats)

What if you are not average? Bodybuilding experts generally agree that 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is about the right amount of protein for average athletes. Some professionals go as high as 1.7 to even 2 grams per pound. They generally are lifting more weight and tearing down more muscle than most of us working out and need the extra protein. Percentage-wise, protein should make up about 10% of your diet but can go as high as 35% depending on your workout duration and intensity.

Another issue concerning protein, besides how much to eat, is the optimal time to eat it. There has been a long-standing “window of opportunity” that was the mantra of many bodybuilders in the past. Up to forty-five minutes post-workout was the stated optimal time.  But the results of a new study show that a couple of hours before working out is optimal for energy during your workout in addition to your post-workout window and here is why. It takes a while for the body to process protein. Taking it in a couple of hours before heading out to the gym gives the body time to break it down so it is ready for your body to use during the workout. Post-workout protein replenishes what you used during your workout.

Protein is a good example of something where more is not always better; as a matter of fact, it can be harmful. Start with the guidelines stated in this article and then adjust as necessary keeping watch for signs that you may be getting too much.