To start with I need to be very clear that Protein should be a huge component of a healthy diet. It exists in all living cells and is constantly broken down and replaced by your body as we go about our daily lives! It’s also one of the 3 main macro-nutrients (Healthy Fats and Carbohydrates being the other 2).
Proteins when broken down are made up of amino acids, some classed as non-essential and some classed as essential.
Non-essential proteins are amino acids that are produced naturally in the body. Essential amino acids cannot be produced in the body and therefore need to be ingested through food. Of the 22 amino acids that your body can use, 9 of them are considered to be essential! I’ll not go into too much details on the amino acids and their function in this post but you can find out more here – NCBI Protein and Amino acids
What does it do?
Well the reason it is so important is that it is considered the building blocks of life – to build and then constantly main our tissues. A good example of this is when we are kids we need protein to help us through our growth spurts! It’s the same when we exercise – we need protein to help repair and build our muscles as we recover.
When in a calorie deficit for example it is important to increase our protein intake to help maintain our muscle mass. Someone who is injured or who exercises alot will need make sure they take in enough protein to aid them recover properly. Another great reason to eat more protein is that it keeps you fuller for longer which is an advantage because you won’t feel the need to start munching again 30 mins later!
A great research paper on how protein can help with your training can be found here – A systematic review
Where are essential amino acids found?
Protein is found all around us: Chicken. Lean beef, Milk, Eggs, Turkey, Fish, Cottage Cheese, Greek Yoghurt, Nuts like Almonds. The list goes on and on. If there’s nothing on this list you like hit google for some more ideas, even Quorn mince is nice!!
My personal opinion is that we do not take in enough protein during the day and that the current guidelines are wildly outdated! How much protein is needed I hear you ask. Well that depends on the individual and their goals whether it be fitness related or just for general health benefits. There are many factors that we need to take into account but as a general rule of thumb I would start someone out on at least 1.8g per kg of body weight and there is certainly no danger in going alot higher than this. The key as mentioned elsewhere in my blog is how does eating more protein affect your overall calorie intake. For more on this see my post on how to set and track your macros
- Start eating protein with every meal – do your own research and see what types of protein you like!
- Don’t be worried about the amount of protein, there is a lot research showing no harm in consuming more than 3 grams per kg of body weight. That’s like an 85kg man eating chicken breasts every hour all day, in other words you’ll be grand!
Enjoy them proteins!