What do you need protein for? Everything! Who needs protein? Everyone! Let’s find out why…
What Is It?
Protein is a key macronutrient (along with carbohydrates and fats) that everybody needs, every day. It is made up of essential and non-essential amino acids, which serve as the building blocks for immune cells, enzymes, hormones, brain messengers, muscles and tissues! Think of amino acids as the “Lego Blocks” used to build your body!
Why Do We Need Protein?
Our bodies need protein for both structure and function. It is the second most abundant substance in the body next to water. Structurally, there is protein in every single cell in the body. It is “glue” that holds us together and allows us to develop and exist.
10 Reasons to Eat More Protein
- Reduces Appetite and Cravings/Snacking
- Increases Muscle Mass/ Strength & Prevent Loss
- Keeps Hair, Skin & Nails Strong
- Boosts Metabolism and Increases Fat Burning
- Can Lower Your Blood Pressure and Balance Cholesterol
- Helps Maintain Permanent Weight Loss
- Speeds Up Recovery After Injury
- Provides Long Lasting Energy/Prevents Crashes
- Critical Component for Strong Immune System
- Optimizes Brain Function
Did You Know? Thethermic effect(the amount of energy required to digest, absorb, transport and store protein) of protein is a lot higher than that of carbohydrates and fat. Therefore, eating protein can lead to a higher metabolic rate (i.e. more calories burned). Protein consumption also increases the hormone glucagon, which is responsible for counteracting the effects of insulin, leading to greater fat mobilization for energy and less storage.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Daily: As a general rule, the average person needs roughly half of their ideal body weight (lbs.) in grams of protein per day to maintain their lean muscle. Active or growing individuals (children/pregnancy/bodybuilding) need even more!
Per Serving: Aim to consume between 20-30 grams of protein per main meal as our bodies need a continuous supply.
Symptoms of protein deficiency include: frequent hunger and cravings, brain fog, dizziness, poor coordination, hair loss, weak/brittle/splitting fingernails, fatigue, energy crashes and weakness, chronic sickness and slow healing, fluid retention, etc.
Protein Sources & Average Portions
- ½ Cup Cooked Whole Grains or ¼ Cup Whole Grain Flour: 2-5g
- 100 Calories (1-2 Tbsps.) of Nuts/Seeds: 2-6g
- 1 Cup Milk/.5 Cup Cottage Cheese or Greek Yogurt: 8-15g
- ½ Cup Beans or Legumes: 6-8g
- 1 (roughly 3oz) Serving of Meat or Fish: 15-20g
Protein in powder form is a convenient, low-calorie and affordable way to ensure that you are hitting your daily protein totals. It is the best way to take in a high amount of easily digestible, quality protein without excess calories! Protein powder can be used in meal replacements or snacks. Examples include, blended in smoothies, added into hot or cold cereal, stirred into yogurt or coconut cream, baked into bars, bites, cookies, muffins, granola or pancakes! Be sure to choose a high quality protein powder, free of harmful additives and chemicals such as artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives. If choosing a whey product, consider what the cattle source was fed and where/how it was raised. If choosing a plant protein, you may want to look for non-GMO, organic, raw and sprouted ingredients.
Plant vs. Whey Based (Animal) Protein
Whey protein is a by-product of cheese manufacturing. It has a complete amino acid profile (includes all essential amino acids in one food source). It is the source that is used most efficiently by the body as it has the highest biological value and is highest in BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids), which are useful in providing energy and sparing muscle tissue. Some individuals experience a sensitivity to whey protein, as dairy is a common allergen. Whey protein powders come in both isolate and concentrate forms. Whey concentrate is higher in lactose and digests more slowly when compared to whey isolate.
Protein can also come from plant sources such as nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and grains. Many of these ingredients are considered incomplete (only contain a partial amino acid profile) but may be used together as complementary sources to offer all of these essential nutrients. Exceptions include organic fermented soy, hemp, chia, quinoa and buckwheat, which are complete proteins. These sources often contain alkalizing ingredients that provide fibre and phytochemicals.
No matter your age, gender or lifestyle, protein is of utmost importance. If you know you are not consuming enough or are experiencing any deficiency symptoms, it may be time to consider a few dietary changes and/or an additional protein powder supplement in order to provide the body with the building blocks it needs, not only to survive, but to thrive!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.