Power Up on Protein for Muscle Health

rebecca-teal-150x150Today’s post is the second of a series of blogs from our friend Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, ACSM HFS.

website: www.RebeccaScritchfield.com
Twitter: @ScritchfieldRD

Disclosure from Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, ACSM HFS: I was compensated by Egg Nutrition Center for my time in writing this blog post.

As a personal trainer and fitness expert, you know dietary protein intake directly influences muscle mass, strength and function in people of all ages. You do what you can in your client sessions to make sure they are eating right because you know the workout is only half the equation. How do you help your clients fuel well? You need to give them accurate advice they can implement quickly.

In this blog, my goal is to make it easy for you to bring the protein message to your clients by providing tips, resources, and research evidence. This way, you can get on with your job of motivating and coaching them through their workouts.

How much protein should I be eating?


The amount of protein a person needs depends on their activity level and goals. Newer research is showing that the average healthy adult should consume 25-30 grams of high-quality protein with each meal.(1) Protein helps maintain healthy bones and muscles, so it’s especially important that physically active people are getting adequate amounts throughout the day.(2)  Keep in mind that not all proteins are built alike and be sure to stress the importance of high-quality protein to your clients. High-quality proteins are easier for the body to utilize, they help you feel full and energized, they provide all the essential amino acids our bodies need to function optimally, and they may aid in weight loss. Animal products contain high-quality proteins and when combined with plant-based proteins, there is an overall boost in protein. Some foods that contain protein are eggs, Greek yogurt, milk, meat, fish as well as others such as quinoa, tofu and hemp seeds.


For most people, breakfasts are quick and on-the-go, which can make it difficult to hit the protein target. Whole eggs, which have 6 grams of quality protein (13% of the recommended Daily Value), are a great choice for breakfast. Research shows that eating eggs for breakfast, in comparison to higher carbohydrate alternatives, such as bagels, have helped overweight dieters lose 65% more weight and reduce their BMI by 61% more than those who chose the bagel.(3) Adequate protein intake at breakfast has also been shown to increase satiety throughout the day.  If your clients don’t have a few minutes to make eggs in the morning, encourage them to take hard boiled eggs on-the-go or even make scrambled eggs the night before and reheat for a few minutes the next morning.

better-breakfast-150x150 Download the “better breakfast protein” infographic for more facts and breakfast comparisons. Feel free to share this with your clients or post it to your website.

Besides protein, emphasize balance to your clients. Carbohydrates and fats are also important nutrients to fuel our lives. These main dish recipesfrom Incredible Eggs are delicious, easy, and balanced in nutrients.

Should I be eating protein before and/or after a workout?

High-quality protein is not only important in each meal, but it’s also an essential part of fueling before and recovering from a workout. (2) Let your clients know that high-quality proteins should be incorporated into their pre-fuel and recovery meals and snacks.

I recommend whole eggs plus a source of carbohydrates. For morning workouts, eggs with an English muffin or corn tortilla will do the trick. For evening workouts, I’d suggest a burrito with eggs, beans, and veggies. These options work for both pre-fuel and recovery. Other food ideas include homemade cinnamon French toast sticks, oatmeal with Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese with fruit.

Clients always want to know “how much should I eat?” The volume of food depends on

the person’s total daily energy needs. In general, bigger portions for more active people with more muscle mass. A good “rule of thumb” is that your clients should eat their three balanced meals, pre-fuel and recovery. If they get hungry outside of those meals, they may need an additional snack, or they may need to increase the portion size of meals.

Aren’t egg whites a good source of protein?


It’s a common myth that eating just the egg white is the best way to get all of an eggs protein and none of its fat. Actually, about half of an eggs high-quality protein is found in the yolk – in fact, whole eggs offer such high-quality protein that they are the “gold standard” to which scientists compare other quality proteins. Yolks also have other nutrients like choline, Vitamin D, and antioxidants. And each one adds only 55 calories and 4.5 grams of fats, over half of which are heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Encourage your clients to eat the whole egg, including the yolk.

What about protein powders and shakes — do those provide quality protein to fuel my workouts?

I’m sure that a lot of your clients have questions about protein supplements. Whenever one of my clients wants to know about the different options available, I make it a point to educate them on the pros and cons. It’s a common curiosity among my clients if the supplements offer an “edge”. First, I always tell them that whole foods are better. Choose food first. Second, it’s important that any supplement have a specific beneficial purpose and nutrition need. Convenience is one of the big alluring factors of protein supplements. Try working with them to emphasize convenient, portable real foods that deliver protein and carbohydrates and minimize the use of protein supplements. Remind them that whole foods have additional nutritional benefits such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that supplements lack.

The downfall of supplements is that they are not regulated by the government for quality, purity, and safety. I always recommend choosing a producer that you can really trust – look for a company with a long history of good products and provides the nutrients in the most natural form possible. Avoid any “funny business” ingredients.


(1)  Layman D, Rodriquez N. Egg protein as a source of power, strength, and energy. Food Science. 2009; 44(1):43-48.

(2)  Layman D and Rodriquez N. Egg Protein as a source of power, strength and energy. Nutrition Today 2009; 44(1):  43-7.

(3)  Ratliff, J., Leite, J.O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M.J., VanHeest, J., Fernandez, M.L. (2010) Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research, 30, 96-103.

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