Protein is used by your body in numerous ways; immune function, to repaired muscular damage, teeth, hair, bone and skin.

One of the most common issues when I do nutritional consultations with clients is too little protein. As a result the individual misses out on all of the benefits of this awesome macro nutrient.

Today’s article will explain what protein is, the benefits, sources and of course how much of it you should be eating.

A bit of background on protein

Protein is comprised of smaller molecules called amino acids (AA). These are the building blocks of protein. There are 22 main amino acids. 9 of these are known as essential amino acids (can only be taken in through food).

The essential amino acids are:

  • tryptophan
  • lysine
  • methionine
  • phenylalanine
  • threonine
  • valine
  • leucine
  • histidine
  • Isoleucine

These AAs are extremely important to the body. They help regulate blood sugar, blood pressure through hormones. Protein sources are broken into two groups (complete and incomplete proteins) based on whether or not they contain the above essential amino acids.  Complete proteins contain the EAAs.

Where can I get good sources?

Animal products are the best sources of protein, foods such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, poultry and daily are all good sources. However many grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and other plant-based foods also contain protein, just not in the same quantities as animal products.

One thing to be wary of is the quality of the sources. An example is beef. There is a huge difference in the quality and safety of steak which comes from an ethically raised animal whose been out on the grass as opposed to a feedlot, grain fed animal pumped full of antibiotics. A sick animal is going to produce sick meat.

How much protein should I eat?

As a simple general rule women should aim for 1 palm and men should go for 2 palms. If you measure your food it is roughly 30-60 grams per palm. So if you’re a female who wants to get sufficient protein in through something like a steak for about 150g. Guys is more like 250-300. Probably more than you thought right. Eggs contain 6 gs of protein so 4-8 eggs!

1 palm per meal for women

2 palms per meal for men

Photocredit

Protein dosage for muscle gain

If you are looking to gain more muscle it’s best to base your protein amount to 1.5g per pound of the lean body mass (LBM) you wish to attain. If you are currently sitting with 170 LBM and want to get to 180 then multiple 180 x 1.5 and you have calculated your daily protein intake.

3 Reasons to Eat More Protein

1. Ranks highest on the satiety index

The satiety index was created by Dr Susanna Holt in Sydney. It shows how full food will make you based on calories. Protein will make us more full for less calories versus carbs and fats, Increasing protein therefore will make it easier to lose fat because you won’t feel as hungry.

2. Highest thermic effect on food

This refers to the amount of energy your body uses to digest and absorb food. The less calories your body stores due to thermic effect of food the less fat will be stored. Protein ranks much higher than carbs and fats here. 30% of protein goes towards digestion, assimilation and absorption, only 3% of fat and 8% of carbohydrates energy do the same.

3. Protein is only macronutrient that helps build and maintain muscle mass.

Muscle is more metabolically active than any other tissue in your body. More muscle = higher metabolism. A higher metabolism will make it easier to maintain a healthy bodyweight over the long term.

Summary and recommendations

  • As a general rule and for ease of measurement  women should shoot one palm of protein per meal. Guys go for two.
  • If you want to track aim for 1g per pound of bodyweight.
  • Breakfast time is where most people find protein challenging. If you can’t eat meat or eggs first thing, try a smoothie with protein powder (LINK)
  • For muscle gain aim for 1.5 x your LBM goal per day.
  • Having a higher protein diet will keep you satiated for longer so if hunger is an issue more protein will help.
  • You should consume some protein before and after training to ensure adequate recovery.

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