Lean muscle is something a lot of us strive for, and it’s possible we all do it for different reasons. But there is one great reason why you want lean muscles, and that is because it helps our body burn calories continuously, which can be a great asset when it comes to weight management and weight loss.
Protein happens to play a key role in this process. For you to create muscle, protein synthesis needs to be greater than protein breakdown. Eating protein can help to increase the process of building muscle. And one of the best ways to improve muscle creation is by ingesting. The current RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is .8 g/kg/day for people over the age of 18. So what does this look like in real life? I’m so glad you asked. A 30-year-old, 120 lb., moderately active female with a 2,000-calorie diet should strive to eat about 43 grams of protein per day.
Protein can best be thought of as legos. Building blocks called amino acids, are placed on top of one another to form a structure, our muscle. There are nine essential amino acids (we need to get these amino acids from the foods we ingest) and 11 non-essential amino acids (our bodies can make them, so we do not need to get them from food). These essential and non-essential amino acids are also organized into two main categories of proteins: complete and incomplete.
Complete proteins have all nine essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins are lacking one or more essential amino acids. Any food that comes from an animal source is considered a complete protein (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy). Most foods that come from plant sources are considered incomplete proteins (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) Incomplete proteins can be combined throughout the day to provide us with all the amino acids that we need.
If you want to stimulate the growth of muscle which we know can help to burn calories and help weight loss, it is important to look at the type of protein you are consuming. The amino acids matter. There is some research that indicates that a branched chain amino acid like leucine are key amino acids that help to stimulate muscle growth. Recommended amounts include 8-10 grams of branched chain amino acids like valine, isoleucine, and leucine. Foods that are rich in leucine include lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds, whole grains and soybeans.
Another important part of the equation is the time that you consume protein. Most of us consume protein at dinner. But if we are trying to boost muscle creating we need to spread it out throughout the day. Make sure ¼ of your plate is a lean protein source!