What Your Personal Training Clients Need to Know About Protein

What Your Personal Training Clients Need to Know About Protein

Protein is important, but it’s probably not as important as your personal training clients think.

They might have been led to believe it’s the magical unicorn of muscle-building.

But that’s not true.

When it comes to increasing muscle mass and shedding fat, the only true answer is old school:

Real food and hard work.

It’s easy to point to protein as a cure-all. It’s sexy. It’s easy. It’s convenient.

But here’s the truth:

Consistency and commitment are the real magical unicorns of muscle-building and fat-burning.

And if your clients are like most Americans, they might already be getting enough protein from the food they eat.

So, how much protein do your clients really need?

Probably not as much as you (or they) might think.

Protein should make up 10-35% of their total calories (Medicine, 2005).

And going above that isn’t going to help very much.

Take a look at the chart below. As you’ll notice, the range is pretty big, but here’s the take-home lesson:

Depending on their diet, your clients are probably already getting enough protein.

If they’re trying to pack on muscle, being in the upper range is helpful, but there is an effective upper limit.

This chart can give you good insight into that upper effective limit, so you can keep clients from wasting time, money, and other resources obsessing about extra protein when it adds no additional benefit.

Calories Grams of 
at 10-35%
1200 30-105
1300 33-114
1400 35-123
1500 38-132
1600 40-140
1700 43-148
1800 45-158
1900 48-167
2000 50-175
2100 53-184
2200 55-193
2300 58-202
2400 60-210
2500 63-219
2600 65-228

The amount of protein your clients already eat may surprise you…

The typical American dietary intake of protein is between 15-16.5% of total calories. (Statistics, 2015)

If your clients are like any other typical American, they’re probably already eating more than the minimum required amount of protein.

Talk to them about a typical day’s food intake to see how much protein they’re currently eating.

That will help you to see if they should be taking in more than they already are.

Breakfast 2 Scrambled Eggs (12g) with ½ cup oatmeal (5g) and 8oz milk (8g)
Snack 2 Tbsp. peanut butter (7g)
Lunch 2 packs tuna (32g)
Snack ¼ cup Almonds (7g)
Dinner 4oz Chicken breast (26g) with brown rice (5g)
Approximate Total 100-105 grams of protein

Over 20% of total calories for a 2,000 calorie diet.

Great sources of protein from foods...

If your clients need a bit of extra protein, show them this list and encourage them to add some of these foods to their diet.

Dairy Greek yogurt (23g per 8oz)

Cottage cheese (14g per ½ cup)

Swiss cheese (8g per 1oz)

Eggs (6g per 1 large egg)

2% milk (8g per 1 cup)

Whey protein (17g per scoop)

Meat Steak (23g per 3oz)

Ground beef (18g per 3oz)

Boneless pork chop (26g per 3oz)

Chicken (24g per 3oz)

Turkey breast (24g per 3oz)

Yellowfin tuna (25g per 3oz)

Halibut (23g per 3oz)

Salmon (23g per 3oz)

Tilapia (21g per 3oz)

Anchovies (23g per 3oz)

Sardines (21g per 3oz)

Vegetables & Beans Edamame (8g per ½ cup)

Green peas (7g per 1 cup)

Navy beans (20g per 1 cup)

Dried lentils (13g per ¼ cup)

Grains Wheat germ (6g per 1oz)

Soba noodles (12g per 3oz)

Quinoa (8g per 1 cup)

Snack Foods Beef jerky (13g per 1oz)

Peanut butter (8g per 2 Tbsp.)

Mixed nuts (6g per 2oz)

(Kadey, 2016)

Timing is everything

While the amount of protein your clients eat is important, when they eat that protein is incredibly important too.

Here’s why:

Every time you put clients through a workout, muscle tissue is broken down.

So, to repair and build new muscle, they should take in protein before or immediately after high-intensity exercise.

Whatever your clients’ goals — protein is important.

But they’re probably already getting enough of it.

Discuss a typical day’s diet with them to determine how much protein they’re eating currently.

Then, use this post to help them understand how much they need and to add high-protein foods to their diet, if necessary.


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Sarah is a Registered Dietitian, health coach, blogger, presenter, writer and founder of Simpletic Nutrition. Sarah holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Memphis and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Middle Tennessee State University. Sarah resides in Nashville, TN, with her two sons, Eli and Ethan, and her husband, Scott. Contact: www.simpleticnutrition.com/contact

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