Unlocking the Power of Protein: An Essential Guide for Personal Trainers


Nutrition plays a crucial role in athletic performance and overall health. Once a personal trainer gains insight into a client's dietary intake and energy requirements, they are better equipped to assess their client's nutritional needs.

An understanding of the six primary nutrients - protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water - is paramount to guiding a client towards a balanced diet. This knowledge, combined with a focus on physical activity, results in a holistic approach to fitness and wellness. Remember, it's not just about exercise. You cannot ignore one aspect without compromising the potential benefits for your clients.

The Role of Protein

Protein has been the cornerstone of diets for centuries, traditionally considered as the powerhouse nutrient for strength and speed. However, we now know that carbohydrates are primarily responsible for fuelling sporting activities. Nonetheless, the interest in protein hasn't waned, especially among those looking to enhance their body's response to resistance training, boost lean muscle mass, or reduce body fat.

Determining the right amount of protein for your client is a complex process that involves considering multiple factors. These include energy intake, activity level, the type of exercise, body composition, and, in some instances, the source of protein.

While protein's primary role is to repair and build tissue, a portion is also oxidized for energy. When caloric intake is low, or when body fat or levels of glycogen (stored carbohydrate primarily in muscle and liver) are low, protein requirements increase.

Protein intake recommendations by health and government organizations are designed to prevent amino acid deficiency. However, these guidelines are not aimed at improving fitness, health, or body composition. They also assume that "reference proteins", such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs - considered high-quality proteins - are being consumed.

The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for healthy, sedentary adults is 0.8 g/kg of body weight for both men and women, while the World Health Organization suggests a safe intake level of 0.83 g of protein/kg per day. These values may suffice for non-active adults consuming reference proteins, but they may not be sufficient for those with higher protein needs, particularly those engaging in intense physical activities.

Fine-tuning Protein Intake

For athletes, the recommended protein intake lies between 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg per day, contingent on their sport, training intensity, total calorie intake, and overall health. To enhance adaptations to resistance training, a daily protein intake of 1.6 g/kg is ideal. However, for individuals aiming to maximize strength or muscle mass, an upper limit of 2.2 g/kg may be more effective.

High-protein diets can be advantageous for those aiming to lose fat, particularly in a caloric deficit. Not only does this facilitate muscle repair and building, but higher-protein diets may also reduce the urge to eat and potentially enhance fat loss due to increased food thermic effect and improved satiety.

However, personal trainers should note that excessively high protein intakes can be detrimental for clients with impaired renal function, those with low calcium intake, or those restricting fluid intake. For the most part, though, concerns about high protein intake's potential negative effects are unfounded, especially among healthy individuals.


The power of protein goes beyond muscle repair and growth. It also influences energy usage, appetite, and fat loss. Understanding the intricacies of protein intake allows personal trainers to tailor nutrition advice to individual clients' needs and goals.

Embark on a deeper exploration of protein this September at the IFBB Nordic Academy Personal Trainer Course. Extend your knowledge, enhance your practice, and help your clients achieve their fitness and health goals. Remember, it's about striking the right balance - between nutrition and physical activity, and among the six essential nutrients. Let's strive to provide holistic health guidance to those who trust us with their wellness journey.