Category Archives: Resources

Can Protein Needs For Men Be Met By Food Alone?

Even though I ask both male and female clients about supplements it’s usually the men who are the most interested in protein. When we look at protein intake we generally think of meat, chicken, or fish. One of the mainstays in the Advisory Report to the Dietary Guidelines this year focuses on taking in less red and processed meat. So how do you follow the health guidelines for nutrition and still get protein in to achieve fitness goals?

Yes, protein is meat, chicken, and fish, but it’s also lean pork, beans, lentils, and found in cottage cheese, nuts, milk, eggs, and yogurt. Getting in protein from these dietary sources is more beneficial to us than in supplement form. Taking in protein in the form of snacks is a way to be sure we are getting what we need if we cannot get all of our needs in meals. Here is a chart from a recent article in Today’s Dietitian on snacks higher in protein:


How much protein do men need every day? The rule of thumb is .8 grams/kg of body weight. For a 175lb. man this would be 63 grams in a day. To make it easy we can round up to 1 gram/kg which is nearly 80 grams a day. If a normally active, exercising male took in these foods in one day, his protein needs would be met: 1 Greek yogurt (17 grams), 2 hard boiled eggs (12 grams), 5 oz chicken/fish/beef/pork (35 grams), 1 oz pistachios = 49 shelled (5.8 grams).

This equals nearly 70 grams of protein. Taking in 4 servings of whole grains (2 slices whole wheat bread & 1 cup of rice) is roughly another 8 grams and 3 servings of veggies (2 cup raw greens and ½ cup cooked broccoli) is about 6 grams bringing our total to 83.8 grams of protein. As you can see there is not a need to supplement with a protein bar or a powder. A reminder – the only foods which don’t contain protein naturally are fruit and fat.

Studies have shown us that protein requirements for strength-trained individuals are actually not elevated more than normal. As well, science points us to the knowledge that taking in any more than 20 grams of protein after acute resistance exercise shows no further benefit or gain. However, getting in 20 grams of high-quality protein within 45 minutes after exercise can promote a muscle recovery process. The latter piece can be where the snack comes in between meals.

Despite not needing to supplement with bars or powders, many of my male clients still appreciate these products in their diet and there are some that are safe and nutritionally sound. The products I generally recommend are those that fit into the budget and taste good.

Recently I came across Bi-Pro, which supplies 20 grams of protein in 80-100 calories depending on the chosen flavor. If you add 1 cup of milk to Bi-Pro in a shake of sorts, the protein increases to 28 grams. There is strong evidence to support that whey protein, in products like Bi-Pro, is more readily absorbed as whey is more easily and rapidly digested.

The secret to whey protein is its high concentration of essential amino acids and specifically, leucine. By clicking on the website link above for Bi-Pro, this product can be ordered with a 10% discount by entering ROBYN in the discount code. Note this is only when spending $16.99 or more.

Protein needs in endurance athletes can increase to 1.2-1.4 grams/kg of protein per day and those athletes taking part in resistance training can increase even further to 1.6-1.7 grams per kg per day. So for our example male above, this means 103 grams of protein per day if he’s training for a marathon and up to 128 grams of protein per day if he’s training for an iron-man triathlon.

There is usually always room in the diet to increase protein with food especially when working with a sports dietitian, but taking in shakes and protein bars can be beneficial if there is a shortage of time and a preference for these foods.

Other types of supplements I often get questions about from the male clients I see are glutamine and l-arginine. Unfortunately there is not strong enough evidence to suggest these supplements are necessary.

Feeding our bodies with the food it needs and not skimping on the needed carbohydrates for exercise is imperative. We only use about 2-6% of our body’s protein stores for energy production. The rest comes mostly from fat stores or glycogen (carbs, folks!). This is why male athletes or men trying to build muscle need to keep their intake up overall or risk loosing lean tissue.

Creatine supplementation may be helpful in vegetarian athletes and can be considered a safe protein supplement as a way to increase lean body mass in athletes (men or women) who are weightlifters.

The typical dose of creatine is 3-5 grams/day. Some athletes using a loading does of 20 g/day for the first 5 days, but this has not been shown to be beneficial. Side effects such as abdominal cramps can be experienced when using creatine but with the does of 3-5 g/day these side effects may be negated.

Another trend right now in athletes is with beet juice, which may have concerns around the amount of nitrate it contains and this relationship to the body. Early studies with this food show an increase in skeletal muscle due to the lower demand of oxygen.

Just as last month’s e-newletter was directed toward women and supplements, the recommendations can be applied to both men and women. In the information above, the same is true. Need more information on your own specific protein needs?

Training for a ½ marathon or another type of ultra-endurance event? Get in touch with me to determine a nutrition plan just for you.

Creating Nutritional Balance With Supplements

Each time I meet with any client for an initial nutrition session one of the questions I ask are what supplements they take and why.

While supplements need to all be individualized there are some general guidelines to follow. Please note I am not recommending every single person take these, but reviewing guidelines and specificities I have found in science and translating to practice with results.

Any woman of childbearing age can benefit from taking a multi-vitamin. There is one reason and this is folate and how significantly it relates to the development of the baby. Multi-vitamins have folate and women have a hard time getting it unless they take in foods higher in folate. Here is the Academy’s recommendation on Folate and B-vitamins. Over the years one of the best multi-vitamin products on the market has been Centrum. However, most supplements are made by only a handful of companies. Treat yourself to Centrum or buy the product next to it that is less expensive – saving money for a few other supplements listed below.

We have heard much ado about vitamin D for just under a decade. I have heard premier researchers speak on Vitamin D. When we get our labs checked our vitamin D 3 and vitamin D 2 may get valued. Normal for vitamin D3 is usually between 30-100 ng/ml and we are most interested in our vitamin D3 and keeping these levels normalized.

Anyone above latitude 42 may be at risk for vitamin D3 insufficiency! If a person’s vitamin D 3 level is above 30 but not much higher, generally I recommend 2000 IU a day of this supplement. If their levels are between 20-30 ng/ml, I recommend 5000 IU/day. I have seen clients and patients with levels as low as 6 ng/ml and for these folks we need a prescription level of vitamin D that often is about 50,000 units a week – all in one pill, though.
A lack of vitamin D can affect many pieces of our health and it is quite specific to our mood.

In my practice I see a lot of women with issues related to PMS and menopause. One of the best supplement helpers for bloating, hot flashes, and mood swings is B6. We don’t get enough B6 in a multivitamin or a B-complex to make a difference to these pieces in our body. I usually start with a 50 mg amount of B6 and if we see results we stop here. It is acceptable to go up to 200 mg a day of B6. Sometimes clients may get side effects like tingling in their fingers as a result of the higher dose but this comes right down again when the amount is decreased, as B6 is a water-soluble vitamin.

If you’ve seen me in practice or heard one of my talks on nutrition you know how I feel about probiotics. I LOVE them and if it were up to me they’d be in the water!

Probiotics help keep our gut healthy. There is so much amazing research on this topic. If our gut is healthy our whole bodies will follow suit – hair, nails, personality, weight – just everything. I recommend at least trying to eat yogurt or kefir every day but if this isn’t part of your daily routine, taking in a probiotic supplement of at least acidophilus will help.

Acidophilus tablets on their own are also the least expensive. If you want to get fancy I recommend clients choose a product like PB8 (blue top for regular and green top for vegan) or Align or Culturelle from the pharmacy or grocery. There is also another great company called where you can register and get a coupon then order your product delivered to your door. Remember the usual amount of a probiotic is 2 capsules.

Consumer Infographic[2]

Fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids are essential to our health and specifically to women in cognition, mood, and heart health. I have included several links here including a quiz to see if you need to supplement with this product.

This is my favorite omega 3 product that has been given a stamp of approval by several well known health experts. The amount per day is two. In a past newsletter I recommended chia seeds as a way to get in omega-3’s however it’s the longer chain EPA and DHA foods such as fatty fish or foods fortified with EPA and DHA like eggs and milk which give us the greater cardio-protective benefits. The graphic above illustrates the percentage of Americans possibly deficient in omega-3’s.

I do put preaching into practice and take 2000 IU of vitamin D3, PB8 (blue top) probiotics (2/day is a serving) and the omega 3 every day myself.
I am not planning on more children and my diet is healthy so I have taken the multivitamin out of my daily regime. For the first time ever my vitamin D was low this past year. I am attributing this to more snow than we’ve had over the past few years and moving to the suburbs – less walking around the city of Boston for a few minutes of winter sun every day to get my vitamin D.

This is only some of the information that I’ve gained over the years in my practice and I’m happy to share more. Next month we’ll cover supplements for men – just in time for Father’s Day. Email me with any questions or concerns you have around nutrition or supplements. I’m always happy to help.