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How Much Protein Do You Need for CrossFit?

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Dietary protein plays an integral role in your performance. Exactly how much protein you need for CrossFit depends on a variety of factors like training frequency, age, gender, current and goal body composition, and—to a degree—food preferences. 

Although best handled by an experienced coach, today we’ll guide you in finding a good starting point as you determine how much protein you need to optimize your performance, body composition, and recovery.

The Role of Protein in CrossFit

Protein plays many important roles in your body—from hormone production to their function as antibodies in your immune system and beyond. Regarding CrossFit and improving your performance, protein plays a fundamental role in muscle building, maintenance, and recovery [1].

How Much Protein Do You Need for CrossFit?

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for protein is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight [2]. This recommendation is primarily based on the needs of inactive individuals. So, how much protein do you need for high intensity exercise and resistance training? 

At WAG Nutrition, we generally recommend at least 0.8g per pound of body weight—that is more than double the RDI. Studies have shown that these higher levels benefit active individuals who want to increase lean body mass, especially in a calorie deficit [3,4,5]. 

Protein Timing for CrossFit

Wondering about the widely-held belief that your body can only utilize 20-25g of protein at a time? A 2018 study by Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon found no consistent data to prove this is the case [6]. 

At the end of the day, the “best” way to distribute protein is however it is easiest for you based on your preferences and schedule. We generally recommend evenly spacing protein throughout your day and making sure to get enough before and after training to support muscle recovery and blood sugar regulation.

Where to Get Protein

Protein is primarily found in meat, seafood, dairy, meat substitutes, and protein supplements. Protein can be further categorized by fat content—this is especially helpful when you’re counting macros and need to manipulate protein sources to ensure you hit your daily fat target as well.

If you need support determining exactly how much protein you need based on your goals or how to work protein into your daily nutrition plan, a WAG coach can help. 

Use the code MCU for $50 off your first month with a 1-on-1 coach with years of experience helping CrossFit athletes perform at their best while optimizing their body composition. 

Resources:

  1. Carbone, J. W., & Pasiakos, S.M. (2019). Dietary protein and muscle mass: Translating science to application and health benefit. Nutrients, 11(5): 1126. doi: 10.3390/nu11051136
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
  3. Morton R., Murphy, K., McKellar, S., Schoenfeld, B., Henselmans, M., Helms, E., Aragon, A… & Phillips, S. (2018). A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 52(6), 376-384. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608.
  4. Helms E.R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D., Brown, S. (2014). A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 24(2), 127-38. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2013-0054
  5. Aragon A., Schoenfeld, B., Wildman, R., Kleiner, S., VanDusseldorp, T., Taylor, L., Earnest, C… & Antonio, J. (2017). International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 14, 6. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y.
  6. Schoenfeld B.J. & Aragon A.A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 27, 10. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1

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