Protein, protein, protein! We all know it’s an important building block to our health. You enter any store nowadays which sells food and you’ll see bags, boxes, and wrappers covered in the words “high protein,” “great source of protein,” or if the word “protein” is simply slapped onto the packaging in big bold lettering. It truly has become a food industry buzzword. However, the reasons why protein is so important to our health may surprise you–as well as all the non-animal based protein sources one can find! Let’s dive in…shall we?
While there are numerous benefits to consuming a diet rich in quality protein sources, we will only touch on a few–otherwise you’ll be reading for what seems like for-ev-er (yes that was, in fact, a Sandlot reference). Protein is one of the main building blocks of body tissue and can be used as a fuel source. Protein is one of three macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats) our bodies need in order to function properly; at 4 kcal (measurement of energy) per gram, it can be argued protein is the most important macronutrient. Why? Well, due to protein’s ability to help the body retain lean body mass (muscle tissue), keep an individual satiated (full and satisfied) longer, and aid in body fat loss (burning the body’s current fat storage as fuel) some researchers place protein on the highest of pedestals. Sometimes superseding the other two macronutrients. Some proteins are even labeled as “complete proteins” for they contain all nine essential amino acids the body needs–ex: eggs, soy (plant based source). While protein is a key element when our body is building lean muscle tissue, protein is also used when repairing tissues. Bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood all require protein as a one of their building blocks.
Well, Erin, if protein is so important to our body how much should I consume each day? Like with anything, moderation is key. Too much protein in your nutrition and the excess will be converted into fat and consequently saved as such. Too little protein in your nutrition and the body begins to sacrifice your lean muscle tissue—which is not ideal, especially if you’re working hard for those “gainz”—that’s correct your lean muscle tissue will be the first to volunteer as tribute. There are many variables which come into play as to how much protein is an appropriate amount to consume—height, weight, gender, activity level, age dietary restriction, current health concerns, etc. My personal philosophy is your individual nutrition has to be specific to you in order to support your health and the goals you’re striving to achieve. According to the RDI (recommended daily intake), “As a rough guide, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for protein (measured in grams per kilogram of body weight) is: 0.75 g/kg for adult women. 0.84 g/kg for adult men.” My two cents on this subject as a “good rule of thumb” is to consume a quality LEAN protein source with each meal. This will help keep you satiated—additionally, it is really difficult to over eat protein.
Many of you may be wondering, if you’ve done some quick calculations, the amount of protein you’re to consume may feel unattainable. You’re thinking you couldn’t possibly eat that much chicken. Well, quite frankly, no one could or would probably want to consume that much chicken. Did you know there are loads of alternative protein options out there aside from animal protein sources? If you’re a vegetarian or enjoy a higher plant based diet, you already know this to be true. Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, tempeh, quinoa, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, edamame, and chia seeds are just a few non-animal protein options that are readily available at your local market. Additionally, they are oftentimes less expensive than your animal protein source.
To briefly recap on the Powerhouse Macronutrient that is Protein:
- 4kcal/gram in energy
- builds and repair body tissues
- needed for bones, cartilage, blood, and skin
- helps keep you satiated
- complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids (more details can be found here: https://faithfamilyfitness.blog/2019/09/10/nutrition-tip-tuesday/ )
Below are some protein sources (animal and plant based) which could be great additions to your next meal to bump up the protein:
- Greek yogurt
- Whey Protein
Moral of the story is your body needs to consume adaquate amounts of protein in order to operate properly. Take an honest account of your nutrition and see where you could possibly adjust so you’re functioning at your best!
Until next time,