19 Aug The Importance of Protein – Are You Getting Enough?
What is Protein?
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks to all the tissues in our bodies, including muscles, bones, hormones and all cells. Our tissues are continually being broken down and rebuilt and protein is an essential component of our diet to maintain a steady supply of amino acids for tissue replenishment. Protein is primarily sourced from foods such as:
- Animal products – such as beef, lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy foods
- Vegetarian products – Nuts, seeds, tofu, legumes i.e. lentils and beans, and to a lesser extent grains
- Supplemental products – such as protein powders
How much protein should you consume?
There is an enormous about of controversy regarding protein, and while protein is essential to health and fitness, it is not necessarily a case of more is better. The key is consuming optimal protein at the appropriate times within a balanced diet. In Australia, the recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein for most adults is 0.8g per kg body weight and slightly higher for those over 70 years of age. This equates to 60g of protein per day for a 75kg person.
Higher intakes of protein may be beneficial depending on your level of training, age, health status and health goals. Approximately 20g protein, equal to about 100g chicken, seems to be the ideal amount to consume per serve and there is evidence to support consuming 20g of protein shortly after exercise assists muscle building and reduces risk of muscle weight loss. Higher amounts of protein at one sitting do not appear to provide further muscle gains.
Protein and weight loss
Increasing protein in the diet along with exercise may enhance fat weight loss and reduce the risk of muscle weight loss while dieting. Protein may assist weight loss by:
- Maintaining or increasing muscle mass
- Maintaining or increasing resting metabolic rate
- Promoting satiety – protein helps you feel full and satisfied after eating
The thermic effect of food – protein consumption promotes a higher energy expenditure when compared to fat or carbohydrate – that means eating a higher protein diet with the same energy content as a diet lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates or fat will actually promote higher energy burning, helping with fat weight loss.
Protein for muscle building
- Lean muscle mass provides a muscular and toned body appearance, supports strength and may also promote health and reduce chronic disease risk. Strategies for building muscle include:
- Consuming adequate daily protein, from at least 0.8g per kg of body weight up to 1.7g per kg bodyweight depending on your activity level, along with adequate overall dietary energy
- Timing protein consumption (approx. 20g) shortly after training
- Including some carbohydrate in post training meal to reduce muscle loss
- 20-30g protein every 3 hours away from training
- Consuming a protein powder (whey isolate or pea protein) supplement after training
- Consuming whey, dairy foods or meat which are foods naturally high in the amino acid Leucine which helps muscle growth
Choose proteins with a high biological value, which are those that contain plenty of amino acids and that are readily digested. These include animal proteins such as beef, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs and whey protein isolate supplements.
Eat protein in approximately 20g serves which is equivalent to:
- 3 egg omelet
- 200g of Greek fat free yoghurt
- 80g of meat
- 100g of chicken or turkey
- 110g tin of tuna or salmon
- 150g tofu
- 2 scoops of whey or pea protein powder