Am I Eating Enough Protein to Recover Properly?
KEY TAKEAWAY: If you're chronically sore from workouts, I want to tell you that it won't go away on it's own - or start to get better as you get fitter - if you're not eating enough protein.
Why am I always sore after workouts? Am I eating enough protein to recover properly?
A few weeks ago, I had a client tell me a "Peter, I feel sore all the time."
The client had increased the amount of training he was doing and was sore to the point that he sometimes had trouble sleeping. He wasn't injured. There was nothing acute and no sharp pains. It was just a general soreness and aching, similar to delayed onset muscle soreness.
I knew that that client had switched to nearly a vegetarian diet about 6 weeks ago, and that this roughly coincided with when he started feeling the soreness. Within a week of increasing his protein, the soreness was gone. He just wasn't eating nearly enough to recover from his training.
How much Protein do i need per day?
For good health, the minimum amount of protein you need per day is around 0.4g of protein per pound of bodyweight. That is for someone who's sedentary. Most 'performance nutrition' calls for anywhere from 0.6g to 1g of protein intake per day per pound of body weight. And for those who train hard, 0.8g to 1g is probably optimal, especially if you're looking to add size.
Can I eat too much protein?
As long as you have healthy organ function, the research tells me that there is no harmful amount above which you risk health problems. That means that technically, you can't eat too much protein.
However, the more protein you eat, the less of other foods you'll be able to take in. That can lead to less optimal results, and in the most extreme [which you are NOT at risk of unless all you eat is super lean protein], something called "rabbit starvation". How's that for a fun fact?! OK, back to our topic.
How Much Protein Should I eat to balance my diet?
For example, if your goal is to eat 2000 calories a day and you weigh 150lbs, then eating 1g per lb of bodyweight will mean 600cals coming from protein. That leaves 1400cals to get in lots of healthy fats, veggies, and good quality carbs. You can achieve a great balance with that math! If you were to double your protein to 1200cals, you'd have a lot less opportunity to eat a wider variety of foods, so you'd miss out on many of the benefits of good nutrition, while getting no extra benefit from eating more protein.
It is technically possible to achieve this balance as a vegetarian, but it's a lot harder.
Either way, if you're training and you're eating under the minimal amount, fix it. You're not doing your performance any favours.
If you still feel soreness or a general state of fatigue after addressing protein intake, the next step is to look at your sleep. 8+ hrs is recommended, and having a regular routine where you get to bed around the same time each night makes a huge impact too. You can read more about setting up your sleep routine in this post. After you check that box, it'd be time to address your broader lifestyle (by which I mean your nutrition profile and stress), and then determine if you're simply training too much for what your body can handle. Dial in the basics and this will fix 99% of problems.