Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet and is crucial to keep your body functioning properly. There are a lot of myths in the fitness world about this important molecule, so we’re here to set the record straight. Here’s everything you need to know about protein, including why it’s important, how much you should consume, and what foods are the best sources of protein.
Why is protein so important?
Protein is one of the three main macro-nutrients, alongside fats and carbohydrates. Essential for a healthy diet, macro-nutrients keep the body functioning properly, and provide you with energy. Protein is an especially important macro because it helps you to feel fuller longer – this is why when dieting, you’re advised to increase protein and decrease fats and carbohydrates, which the body consumes quicker.
The other reason protein is so important is because it is made up of amino acids. These are the building blocks for a lot of crucial molecules in our bodies, including enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones, and antibodies – basically, they help prevent illness, aid growth and repair, and transport nutrients throughout the body. Our bodies use amino acids constantly, so if we don’t get enough, they’ll start to breakdown. This can be true even in healthy people.
While protein helps you build muscle, if you don’t have enough protein in your diet your body will start taking amino acids from your muscles. This can lead to muscle wasting, and if you’re training constantly without replenishing your protein, you’re actually at risk of lowering your muscle mass.
How much protein do you need in your diet?
Like all parts of your diet, the amount of protein you need is highly individual, and also depends on what you are trying to achieve. The current Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is 0.84g/kg for adult men, and 0.75g/kg for adult women, up until the age of 70. For example, a male weighing 70kg would need 70 x 0.84 grams of protein a day – about 59 grams. However, it’s important to note that the RDI is generally the minimum amount you need in order to survive. It doesn’t take into account how many calories you’re eating and using each day, how active you are, or when you eat the protein.
If you are actively trying to lose weight or gain muscle, a higher protein diet is most likely beneficial. For someone undertaking high intensity training, it’s recommended to consume 1.4-2.0g/kg of protein per day, effectively doubling the daily intake for those simply maintaining the protein levels in their body. For those of you using hand portions to measure your protein intake, we recommend 4-6 serves for women and 6-8 serves for men per day.
Whenever you change your diet, or if you’ve recently increased your physical activity, it’s a good idea to talk to a nutrition coach or your GP about your individual dietary needs.
The best protein food sources
There are a number of protein-rich foods you can consume to maintain a healthy diet. Meat is one of the biggest sources of protein, although there are many plant-based foods with a good amount of protein for those who prefer. No matter what your dietary preference, try to eat a variety of protein sources to best absorb the protein, and to avoid tiring your taste buds. Here is a list of some of the highest protein foods, complete with the approximate amount of protein they contain.
|Red meat, chicken, fish||75g||21g|
|Pumpkin seeds||¼ cup||17g|
|Greek yoghurt||¾ cup||14g|
|Beans, peas or lentils||¾ cup||12g|
|Cow’s milk||1 cup||9g|
Protein is an essential part of your diet, and is even more important if you’re trying to manage your weight or increase your muscle mass. If you’re looking to change your lifestyle and improve your health and fitness, contact us today to chat to one of our personal trainers about how we can help you achieve your goals.