Weighing-In on the Protein Debate

protein supplementsThe Zone Diet. Paleo. Vegetarian. Vegan. Gluten-Free. Noobs to CrossFit. Regardless of a member’s diet plan, protein is an important piece to working out, according to Derick Deal, a Coach and nutritionist at District CrossFit. It’s also quite controversial, however.

Before instructing his clients on changing his or her diet plan, especially when it comes to protein, Deal says he considers two aspects of his client’s lifestyle. First, he looks into their overall movement. If they’re inactive, which Deal defines as working a sedentary job and exercising 30 minutes to an hour each day, he will recommend a lower amount of protein. If his client is more active, which he describes as someone who works out an hour to two hours a day doing very intensive, muscle-building workouts, he will recommend an amount of protein higher on his spectrum.

“And we can define that as between 0.5 and 0.6 grams of protein (per pound of body weight). Then, on the other hand, if someone is very active and looking to recover well … 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight at the bare minimum,” Deal explains.

Vanessa Whiting, senior nutritionist for Stronger Faster Healthier, says there are dangers of muscle retention and recovery if too little protein is ingested, but does not see any dangers if too much protein is achieved. She recognizes that CrossFitters want to reach optimal performance daily, and proper nutrition is a huge part of reaching optimal performance. She recommends a more standard diet plan, unless they are in training.

“So, what I kind of go on in my prescription is, basically a sedentary person, man or women, should consume about 0.8 to 1 gram of protein, or 1 gram per kilogram of body weight, daily of protein. As a recreational athlete, that’s probably about the same,” Whiting said. If a client is in training, she recommends anywhere from 1.2 grams to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Before changing anyone’s behavior, however, Deal asks himself if the client seems ready, willing and able. “When you may come across someone who is just not ready, willing or able, the next question is how can you dial down your recommendation that they get more ready willing and able? And usually that might mean, ‘Let’s just focus on one meal a day for the next two weeks,’ and then, again, finding if that is doable … and that is your cue to set your first goal,” Deal said.

One of the biggest mistakes he has seen Coaches make in recommendations is giving too much, too soon. He advises Coaches to center their recommendations on the client’s goals, and not their own needs. Sometimes that may mean not starting with protein, which can be controversial among Affiliates and Coaches.

Deal has seen success in Boxes offering different kind of proteins at the gym or partnering with local farms to sell protein at their Box. But, he says it can only be successful if proper education is provided with the protein options. For vegetarians or vegans, he recommends offering a pre-workout and/or post-workout. Whiting recommends white rice protein or pea protein that are fortified with branch tree amino acids.

Whiting says it may not be that Coaches are intending to make mistakes. She believes Coaches simply don’t have the nutrition experience with recommending protein to athletes, especially when it comes to the timing of ingesting protein. Instead, she recommends Affiliates partner with a local nutritionist or a sports nutritionist who can provide a monthly presentation about meal plans.

Hayli Goode is the former digital editor for Peake Media.