Proteins are an essential source of energy, but on a more basic level, their vital function is as a major building block within our cells. Without protein, our bodies wouldn’t be able to make cells, some of the first signs of life on the planet… no big deal.
Although, proteins can’t do their job without the help of fat and carbohydrates, so they are all equally important. Proteins contribute to the building structure in all the cells of our body, but most importantly (well, in this case), is that they are essential for the body to make muscles!
The body uses 20 different amino acids and eight of these must be eaten as they are not naturally made in the body.
How much is enough?
Most of us eat enough protein everyday as it can be found in a variety of foods, so if you are eating well and including all the food groups in your daily meals, you are likely eating the right amount.
Although, to be sure, for an ordinary adult with low to moderate physical activity, you should be consuming about 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight a day. So, if you are 60 kgm (about 132 lbs), you should be eating approximately 48-60 grams of protein a day. If you are very active person or are working out regularly, you can increase your protein intake to between 1-1.2 grams per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight. This will ensure that you recover fast after a solid workout session.
Be sure to eat protein with high levels of amino acids alongside a balanced diet that includes vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Also, timing your protein intake right can help your body more easily synthesize it, to make muscles!
Best times to consume protein:
- Eat chicken, fish or meat 2-3 hours before a workout
- Drink a protein beverage 30 min before a workout (preferably a milk/yogurt-based drink)
- Drink a milk-based beverage within 15 minutes after a workout
- Eat the main or biggest meal within two hours after you’ve completed a workout
Where can I find protein?
Foods with full protein benefits mainly include meat and dairy products. If you are vegan however, it’s important to combine your protein ie. lentils with vegetables that will give you all your essential amino acids such as broccoli, potatoes, green peas and rice.
An energy balance is crucial for the body, or in other words, you must eat enough fat, proteins and carbohydrates to set the right conditions for the body to function properly. If there is ever a shortage of proteins in the body, it cannot function properly. In extreme cases, this can lead to atrophy which is the degeneration of cells leading to the breakdown essential tissues.
You’re likely eating enough
Before you panic about not eating enough protein, finding protein in food isn’t as hard as you may think. For example, there is actually more protein per 100 grams of nuts than there is in the same amount of meat. Although, nuts are also high in fat, and too much fat can cause unhealthy weight gain. Instead, look for the most efficient protein sources, or lean proteins high protein and low fat content. Foods with the highest value of protein are meat, fish and eggs.
Looking for a leaner alternative? Choose tuna (24.5g of protein/100g) or chicken (21.5g of protein/100g) , you can even eat a banana which contains 1g protein/100g.
Be sure to fill your plate with a variety of protein sources, so that you can combine your protein intake with all the other essential vitamins and minerals.