Importance of Protein

Friday April 6th, 2012

Dealer's Choice

Don’t Forget Protein

By: Richard Haynes

Now the DLG Challenge is underway, and almost everyone in the gym is focused on getting in those leafy greens, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about protein to keep all of us in balance!

The main thing I hear from people around the gym and individuals in general, when going on a healthy more natural diet, is that they tend to focus so much on veggies, nuts/seeds, and fruit that they veer off course to becoming more vegetarian/vegan eaters. In my opinion, this is not the nutritional route you want to go to maximize all of the hard work you put in at CrossFit Redondo.

Our goal is to get you to fit into your clothes better (or make them loose!), become leaned and toned, and have a ton of energy to do what you want in everyday life. Without sufficient protein throughout the day, this will be difficult to accomplish.

To start, I will give an example of when Austin went on the no-bread diet a month after the gym had completed that challenge. Austin mentioned to me about a week in that it was going well, he was eating super healthy, but felt tired throughout the day, sluggish in the gym, and a bit more sore. I asked him to give me the breakdown of what he had eaten the day before to gage exactly what was going on. Here is what resembles closely to what he told me…

Breakfast: Oatmeal with a banana

Snack: Handful of almonds

Lunch: Spinach salad with walnuts and tangerine slices

Snack: Beef jerky

CrossFit WOD

Protein drink

Dinner: Chicken breast with asparagus and steamed broccoli

Instantly, I knew exactly what his problem was – he was hugely lacking in protein. (And fat, but that is for another day)

Now before we jump into what Austin was he was eating, I want to talk about what I think you should be eating for protein. Please remember, I am not a nutritionist, just someone who has experimented with my own body over the last three years of CrossFit along with reading a ton of publications, blogs, and speaking with knowledgeable people on the topic. Feel free to consult Ryan for you personally as this will be generalized.

According to what has worked best for me (and info from good readings) while CrossFitting has been a 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight working out about four times a week. For women working out four times a week, I would recommend .75 grams to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

So, if you are a guy and weigh 170 lbs, you should be eating about 170 grams of protein daily if you CrossFit four times a week and are active. If you are a girl at 115 pounds, you should be eating 85 to 115 grams of protein…and I feel like it should be closer to the 115 number.

Now getting back to Austin…his eating was pretty healthy with the exception of the empty, low nutrient dense oatmeal, but he lacked the protein his body required to build lean muscle from his CrossFit training along with what is need for everyday life.

Let’s say Austin is at 170 pounds. From breakfast through lunch he got almost zero protein, save the handful of almonds which probably yielded him about 10 grams. It wasn’t until the beef jerky that he got some reasonable protein of around 25 grams if he ate the whole package, then a protein drink of 30 grams, and finally a chicken breast that was probably just under 40 grams. His grand total coming to 105 grams with most of it being back loaded at the end of the day after his workout, no wonder he was so tired and sluggish before coming to CrossFit…he had only consumed about 35 grams for over half his day!

When I recommended that he start doubling the protein rich food he was eating, especially amping up his protein intake in the morning, Austin felt a significant difference in his energy during the day along with an improvement in CrossFit workouts.

Take a look at my Monday and Tuesday of the DLG challenge:

April 2nd

Turkey meatballs and mixed veggies (about 20 grams)

Fish Oil Pill +1

Spring green salad with raw veggies and sprouts +3

Can of wild caught red sockeye salmon +1 (about 40 grams)

Kombucha multi-green algae

Handful of organic almonds (about 10 grams)

Jay Robb protein drink (about 25 grams)

Grass-fed beef and Portobello mushrooms over large bag of organic mixed herb salad +5 (about 35 grams)

Fish Oil Pill

Organic apple with almond butter (about 15 grams)


Total: +10 (145 grams total for the day)



April 3rd

Free range scrambled eggs with organic spinach +3 (about 24 grams)

Fish Oil Pill +1

Chipotle salad with double serving of Carnitas, veggies, corn, salsa, NO dressing (about 35 grams)

Package of seaweed +1

Jay Robb protein drink (about 25 grams)

Fish Oil Pill

Half free range chicken with organic steamed broccoli (1st dinner after CrossFit) +3 (about 35 grams)

Grass-fed ground beef with organic steamed broccoli (2nd dinner after soccer) +2 (about 25 grams)

Fish Oil Pill

Kombucha multi-green algae


Total: +10 (144 grams total for the day)

As you can see, not only am I conscious about DLGs, vegetables, and nuts, but I make sure to get the 1:1 ration of protein to my 145 pound body weight. This keeps me energized, continues building lean muscle, and hitting PRs in the gym. Remember, if you don’t have protein to build that lean muscle, the less fat you will burn. More muscle equals more fat burning!

For the ladies in the gym afraid of eating too much protein and getting “bigger”, you should not be concerned. First of all, do you see any ripped body building girls in the gym? No, that is because you do not have enough testosterone to get to that point, and you are not working out twice a day, six days a week preparing for the CrossFit Games. Until that happens, you should focus on getting enough protein. The proper amount of protein while coming in and working hard at CrossFit four or more times a week will build that “toned” figure (“toned” aka muscle tone), and burn tons of fat.

For the members coming in four days a week, you should see improvements in energy and muscle. If you are doing more CrossFit days or play sports, run, etc over the weekend, you should be jumping to 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of body weight (ladies you should be bumping percentage wise too). When I was training six days a week for the OC Throwdown, paired with Wendler Cycles of heavy lifting four days a week, I was doing the 1.5 to 2 grams per day and can say that I was probably in the best shape of my life. Not only was I working out more, but I was feeding plenty of protein that my body needed for the amount of work I was doing.

Have fun with the DLG challenge, but please make sure you are getting enough protein! Play around with different types of meats from pork, chicken, red meat, bison, fish, etc., and see what works best for you!

More to come with protein supplements to help you reach some of your protein goals!