Protein overview

“Proteins are made up of carbon and hydrogen molecules arranged in specific ways. Proteins also contain nitrogen as part of their amino group.”

Eating enough protein may lower blood pressure, reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and reduce triglycerides (fat). Protein is a must in our diets, it helps with reducing obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease. When we consume protein the body has to work harder to process the food, it increase our satiety levels and helps us maintain muscle. All the good stuff right?

Protein is key in muscle-building, without enough you will find it difficult to maintain/increase muscle mass and may feel weak and tired.

Other symptoms may include

  • Hair loss
  • Cracking, brittle nails
  • Flaky, dry skin
  • Poor immunity
  • Feelings of lethargy, or irritability
  • Difficulty keeping warm
  • Headaches
  • Stomach discomfort

As with anything in excess, too much protein in your diet can also have negative health effects.

“Amino acids build proteins, and proteins are life-sustaining macronutrients. While some amino acids only make proteins, others fill a variety of roles, from supporting metabolism to protecting your heart. Your body can also use amino acids for energy when you lack carbs and fats.”

Our body can make 11 of the 20 amino acids it requires, the 11 are known as non-essential amino acids. The other 9, essential amino acids, we need to acquire from our food, not all protein sources are complete (contain all 9 amino acids), so aim for a variety of foods.

Complete food examples contain all 9

  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs
  • dairy

Incomplete food examples contain some of the 9

  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • vegetables

Certain food combinations such as rice and beans or peanut butter and toast (boom!) result in a complete amino acid.

Think of protein making up 30 – 35% of your daily food intake. There are varying theories on how many grams you need per kg of body weight. If you are sedentary try 0.8g and if you are training a lot try 1.4-1.8g per kg of body weight, some sources go as high as 2.2g. As with most of nutrition science, what works for someone else might not work for you, experiment and see what amount is suitable for you and your goals.

From personal experience, I find having a protein source at every meal and snack allows me to maintain/improve my body composition. It’s a habit I got out of but have reintroduced, I have protein within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. “Whey isolate and casein protein powders are easy ways to increase your protein intake, without increasing fat intake.” Try starting with increasing protein intake at breakfast time.

“Protein content of typical food servings

800g steak = 26g

800g chicken = 31g

2 large eggs = 12g

800g tuna in spring water = 22g

1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese = 15g

1 cup lentils = 18g

1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (high in leucine) = 3g”

Check out the back of food labels for more information. You don’t need to count everything obsessively, however take an interest and be aware of what you are consuming. Count the total protein per serving size.

**Data taken from 3 sources Dr Stacy Sims Roar, Livestrong and Precision Nutrition. I am not a nutritionist, I’m sharing the information of others and from my own personal experience. 

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