We’ve heard all kinds of feedback from our clients regarding protein, most of which highlight just how misunderstood this essential nutrient can be.
Rather than producing a list of statements longer than anyone wants to read let alone write we’ve prepared this essential guide to understanding protein.
What Is Protein?
In short all proteins comprise of amino acids, of which there are 22, 9 of which cannot be made by the body (essential amino acids eaa) and must therefore be obtained from food, without these we cannot use protein effectively for it’s primary purpose.
Why Do We Need Protein?
You probably know that protein allows us to repair and rebuild our muscles & soft tissues. It is true that good sources of protein containing all 9 EAA provide the building blocks to repair wear & tear and develop new tissue.
It may be lesser know that protein is also essential for growth & maintenance in:
- hair, skin, nails & eyes
- forming antibodies in the immune system
- insulin – stores energy in the muscles & regulates blood sugar
- hemoglobin – carries oxygen in the blood
How Much Do I Need?
This is where many myths and over consumption tend to occur. Your protein requirements are dependent on 2 factors: 1) your body weight & 2) your activity level & muscular breakdown.
1) Inactive or Moderately Active
Adult members of this group will have an average level of daily soft tissue breakdown and therefore will be safe within the recommended daily intake set by the department of health, this being 0.8g/kg body weight.
eg if you weigh: 100kg x .08= 80g/day.
2) Regularly Active
People exercising regularly in more vigorous sports, particularly weight lifting will experience greater soft tissue breakdown and therefore require proportionately more protein to facilitate effective recovery and the development of new tissue (bigger muscles).
Weight lifters for example are recommended to consume 1.8-2.2g/kg during recovery which usually lasts 48 hours after training.
eg. a 100kg adult: 100kg x2 = 200g/day
Too Much vs Too Little
Too Much: There is some evidence to suggest that unnecessarily high intakes of protein can contribute to the demineralisation of bones, high cholesterol, high blood pressure & possible kidney damage.
Protein contains 4kcal/gram, the same as all carbs. Although these kcal are released slower than carbs excessive protein intake will still lead to increased body fat.
In recent years protein has achieved main stream popularity with people operating on the assumption that it will help you get bigger muscles and lose weight, whilst there is truth to this it’s 100% dependent on kcal in vs kcal out and ensuring that you insight enough breakdown to the desired muscles…in other words if you are not working out effectively all of the protein in the world will not make you ‘bigger’.
Too Little: On the other hand, working out for 10 hours a day but neglecting your protein intake is more likely to make your muscles smaller and will definitely not make you bigger or stronger.
Regularly failing to meet your protein needs whether active or not can cause a disruption in your body composition, hormone and energy levels and lead to illness.
Sources: Food vs Supplements
We’ve seen how important it is that our protein intake reflects our requirements.
When choosing protein sources, look for the lowest fat (leanest) options to protect your protein-calorie balance.
The best sources of lean, complete proteins consistently prove to be:
- chicken (breast, no skin)
- turkey (breast, no skin)
- Oily Fish (Omega 3 source)
- chick peas (low fat, high fibre)
- soy (low fat, high fibre)
Protein Powder, When To Use It:
Millions fall victim to marketing campaigns every year parting with crazy money for a product they don’t understand getting little to no results.
Powders have 2 distinct appeals: 1) they are cheap & 2) they are convenient
The variety of powders available means that we cannot
generalise them, however we know that many contain
artificial sweeteners, flavouring, sugars & fats that people may be over looking.
More importantly though, they are powdered meaning that they can be digested quicker, this is only a real benefit immediately after a workout and first thing in the morning.
Our recommendation is to save your money and invest in lean proteins which provide a slower release of amino acids into the blood.
eg. our 100kg weight lifter would benefit most from 8 evenly spaced portions each containing 25g protein through a 16 hour waking period. Perhaps they will have a protein shake upon waking & immediately after a workout equaling 2 of their portions
There is much more that we could add to this, there is more than enough here though to ensure you can say ‘I understand Protein’.
Be A Doer!
Department of Health: Report on DRV for Food & Energy (2010)
WHO: Energy & Protein Requirments (1985)