Tag Archives: Carbohydrate

Understanding Protein

If you’re confused about how much protein you need per day, you’re not alone. There’s not a cut-and-dried answer. Everyone has a different “need” depending on gender, weight, activity level and goals.

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try to answer this question for myself. There is a lot of information out there. Here is the lowdown on what I found.

What is the RDA for protein:

The purpose of the RDA guidelines is to inform you how much of a specific nutrient your body needs on a daily basis to function properly. So basically, depending on your weight and activity level, the RDA for protein can be viewed as the minimum requirement to keep you healthy.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams per day for women.

Chances are you may need more. But how much more and why?

What is Protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up roughly 20 percent of your total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. Also, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in your body.  Although your body is good at “recycling” protein, you use it up constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.

Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids. Your body can produce some of these amino acids, but others must be consumed through the diet. Animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) and many plant foods are good sources.

Follow this link to see what’s included in the protein food group:


Protein and Weight Loss

When you want to gain muscle and lose fat, eating the right amount of protein is key. Protein and the amino acids that make it up are required for two main reasons.

1) To construct muscle – they are the building blocks

2)  They act as a switch to ‘signal’ that it’s time to start up the “muscle building machinery”.

Leucine is probably the most important amino acid that stimulates this “switch” and is highly present in protein rich food.

Because protein is required to build muscle AND to signal the body to start this process, it’s important to spread out protein consumption evenly throughout the day.

How Much Do You Need?

“When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, research consistently shows that doubling the RDA spaced out throughout the day is the path you want to take to get the best results the fastest”. (BJ Gaddour, “Men’s Health, Your Body is Your Barbell”). This seems like a good rule of thumb in general. Let’s see what other people say.

Nutritionists use a standard to estimate your minimum daily protein requirement.

Multiply the body weight in pounds by .37.

Using this formula, a 150 lb. man would require a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. This falls right in with the RDA.  And if you’re very active and exercise frequently, professionals agree you can nearly double this requirement. Be advised, though, if you’re shooting for a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or more, you’re probably overdoing it. The extra protein will not necessarily benefit you. Also, that’s a lot for the body to process and the extra calories will most likely end up as fat.

To look at it another way, it is recommended that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. This is a rather large range and where you fall in it also depends on your weight and activity level. For a  diet of 1800 calories per day, this means anywhere from a minimum of 45 grams of protein to over 150 grams of protein per day. That 35% is a pretty high number and may be overdoing it for a lot of people. In my diet, I lean towards around 20% protein.

So you see, there are various rules of thumb to figure out the ideal protein for you.

Tracking the Protein Grams you Eat

Many foods contain protein, but at the end of the day, how do you know how much you’ve consumed?

Here is an easy rule of thumb:

Remember the numbers 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 to roughly estimate protein intake.


  • 1 gram of protein for every serving of fruit and vegetables
  • 5 for every egg or handful of nuts you eat
  • 10 for every cup of milk or yogurt
  • 15 for every cup of beans or half-cup of cottage cheese
  • 25 for every 3-4 ounce serving of meat

Protein and Exercise Recovery

After a workout your body switches immediately from performance mode to recovery mode. It’s important to rebuild broken down muscle so you can come back stronger in your next training session. It is a great idea to refuel with protein right after your workout. Try a protein shake. Whey is a rapidly digested protein source loaded with leucine that will help maximize muscle recovery and growth.

Nutrient Timing: Exercise Recovery and Carbs

I found an extra helpful tidbit in my research about muscle recovery and carbs.

Nutrient timing is the concept that certain foods benefit your body more at specific times of the day than at others. After exercise, your muscles want to restock their supply of carbohydrates in the form of  glycogen. This is the time that your muscles are primed to take in the carbs you eat. In fact, after exercise is one of the few times carbs are preferentially transported to your muscles and away from your fat cells.

It’s a great idea to plan your starchiest meal of the day within 2 hours of your training. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on when you workout.

Your other meals of the day should consist of protein and nutrient dense carbs and vegetables.

A Few Last Words…

I hope this helps answer some questions you have about protein or got you thinking more about nutrition. As a trainer I am all about the workout but honestly, 75 – 80% of the weight loss equation concerns what you put in your mouth.

Wishing you much success!







“Did You Know?” – Fun Facts about Health and How your Amazing Body Works

Here are some fun topics for conversation at your next cocktail party! Well, maybe not, but read on and you’re sure to learn a thing or two!

  • America’s most commonly consumed grain product is white bread
  • America’s favorite meat product is beef
  • America’s most commonly eaten vegetable is the potato in the form of french fries
  • A 12 ounce soft drink contains 10-12 teaspoons of sugar
  • Americans, on average, consume 103 pounds of sugar per year
  • Most brown sugar is really white sugar with molasses added for color and flavor
  • Prolonged Vitamin A deficiency can cause permanent blindness
  • Rice is the only starch that does not cause gas
  • The brain is 60% fat
  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in people and animals and gives skin and bones their elastic strength
  • You have almost 10,000 taste buds in your mouth. In general, females have more taste buds than males
  • When at work or play, muscles prefer to use glucose or glycogen for fuel.  This is stored carbohydrate
  • Your brain’s preferred fuel is glycogen (stored carbs) too!
  • When at rest, muscles prefer to use fat for fuel
  • Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Butter is a great example
  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, like oils
  • Dietary guidelines suggest you consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids per day. When you have a choice, choose the liquid fat over the solid fat for heart health
  • Fiber is an important part of your diet but your body can digest very little of it
  • Brain freeze, (that sharp pain in the mid-frontal part of the brain when you take a big bite of ice-cream) is caused when cold substances touch the back part of the palate, causing blood vessels to constrict (tighten). About 1/3 of the population experiences this.

Facts about the Stomach

  • Alcohol is absorbed directly from the stomach, so if you’re going to indulge at that cocktail party, be sure to eat something first. If your stomach is full, alcohol will be absorbed more slowly
  • The stomach empties in 1-4 hours depending on the amount and types of food eaten
  • Carbohydrates speed through the stomach in the shortest time, followed by protein and then fat. Therefore, a high fat meal will sit in your stomach longer
  • Digestion is started, but not completed in the stomach.  The stomach digests only 30-40% of carbs, 10-20% of protein and less than 10% of fat

Facts about the Small and Large Intestine

  • Digestion of fat, protein and most carbohydrate is completed in the small intestine
  • The small intestine packs a gigantic surface area into a small space. The length of the small intestine is about 10 feet long, but because of its many wrinkled folds and fingerlike projections, its absorptive surface area is more than 300 square yards, or the area of a tennis court!
  • Substances take 3-10 hours to journey through the small intestine
  • The large intestine is 5 feet long
  • Substances travel through the large intestine at a much slower rate:18 – 24 hours

Take Care of your Liver!

  • The liver is a detoxification center and filters toxic substances from the blood
  • The liver is a chemical factory, performing over 500 chemical functions to keep your body running smoothly
  • The liver is a warehouse that stores vitamins, hormones, cholesterol, minerals and sugars, releasing them to the bloodstream as needed



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

The ‘How Many Carbs?’ Diet

High carb, low carb, no carb, good carb, bad carb?

Raise your hand if you’re confused about carbs. 

Let’s get straight to the point.  Does your body NEED carbs? YES!

When carbs are digested and absorbed, they form glucose.

Glucose is the primary fuel for the body.  It gives you energy you can feel and see the results of, like rocking your morning workout. And it does so much more on the inside of your body that you can’t see.

The cells in your body depend on glucose to function properly. It’s the preferred fuel for your brain, red blood cells and nervous system. And your body needs glucose to burn fat efficiently.

So can we agree that carbs are important?

Great! Now I can Load Up on White Bread and Chips! – Wrong!

Darn! There are good carbs AND bad carbs.

What are Good Carbs and Where do they Come From?


The bulk of good carbs come from plants.  They grow naturally.

  • Grains – whole wheat flour, bulgar (cracked wheat), rolled oats, whole corn meal, brown rice
  • legumes – beans, peas, lentils
  • fruits
  • vegetables

We also get carbohydrates from milk.

A good carb also has a high fiber content. Although your body can’t digest fiber, it has many health benefits!

  • It helps reduce the risk of: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease
  • It helps your system run smoothly (Yes, I’m referring to those digestion issues).

What are bad carbs?

Processed or refined food.

What is a processed or refined food?

Think white. White bread, white rice, and many pastas. None of these are a good source of nutrition. But why?

There isn’t a ‘white’ grain.  White flour is milled from a natural grain, like wheat.  And as far as we know, all rice starts out brown, (Cambridge World History of Food, published by the Cambridge University Press). In both cases, this means it’s processed to remove the outer husk, bran and germ to leave the the largest middle portion of the grain kernel which is high in starch.  The portions that are removed contain much of the dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrient content.

What does ‘Enriched’ Mean? It Sounds Healthy!!

Enriched White Rice

Enriched White Rice

Manufacturers add back, or ‘enrich’, the product with some nutrients that were removed during processing (iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin). However, they usually don’t add back dietary fiber or the other nutrients lost (Vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc).

Yes, ‘enriched’ sounds healthy, but the ‘white’ product, processed from the ‘white’ grain has far less nutritional value than the original whole grain source.

Other processed foods include pretzels, chips, crackers, cookies and numerous other yummy treats.  They provide lots of calories, but no nutrition.

So What’s the ‘Right’ Amount of Carbs?

The RDA for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day, but most Americans eat far more than this.  An acceptable range is 45-65% of total calories from carbs.

What if I Eat Too Many Carbs?

Eating ‘too many’ and the wrong kind of carbs can contribute to weight gain, poor nutrient intake and tooth decay.

What if I Don’t Eat Enough Carbs?

In the absence of carbs, the body will break down stored fat and convert it into energy. This actually sounds good, doesn’t it? Some popular low carb diets are based on this! However, when the body is depleted of carbs for a prolonged period, there is the concern of developing a condition called Ketosis. (A ketone is a compound produced by the liver to help metabolize fat. If ketone levels become too high, the blood becomes acidic). Promoters of low carb diets say this condition isn’t dangerous, however, not everyone agrees. Some argue your liver and kidneys may be at risk.

At any rate, providing the body with a minimum of 50 – 100 grams of carbs per day can prevent ketosis.

Don’t be Afraid of Carbs, Just Choose Wisely!

I believe that carbs are an essential part of a healthy diet. The trick is to make educated choices.

Choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The ChooseMyPlate.gov website suggests you fill half your plate with these!

When choosing breads, cereal, rice, etc. look for terms such as whole wheat, whole grain, rolled oats and brown rice.  This indicates less or no processing, more nutrients and a healthier you!


Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

Magee, Elaine, MPH, RD.  “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs: Why Carbohydrates Matter to You.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/carbohydrates

“What Foods are in the Grains Group.” ChooseMyPlate.gov. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.html

Copley, Ann. “How to Cook Rice: Is White Rice Healthy?.” http://voices.yahoo.com/how-cook-rice-white-rice-healthy-3015110.html