You no doubt hear fitness buffs talking about eating tons of protein, but why do they tout it so much? In short explanation, every cell, organ and tissues in our body are made up of proteins, it is constantly being broken down and built back up. The protein we eat is what gets broken down into amino acids that repair our bodies. Fat and starches can be saved in the body for later use, however our bodies do not store amino acids from our foods and therefore must be consumed everyday.
There are 20 different amino acids that form protein. The body can produce 10 of these amino acids, the other 10 need to come from outside of us in the form of food. This means that in order to take advantage of all the amino acids we need, we need to get them from our food and specifically from protein.
How much protein do we need?
This amount differs depending on your weight, activities, age and any health conditions. The RDA recommendations are .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The institute of medicine recommends no less than 10, and no more than 35% of your calories, come from protein. It is a common belief that the body cannot assimilate more than 20-30 grams of protein at a time. You do not need to follow these stats, it is merely a guideline to let you know what the RDA's are.
Most people should have protein with every meal. This helps balance out your meal especially if you are also eating refined carbohydrates that digest much faster in the system and can spike the blood sugar. Protein also helps keep you fuller longer so that you do not have as much random snacking going on all day. This does not mean you need to have a 10 oz steak at each meal. It can be as little as 1-3 oz, depending on your protein needs, and of course you do not need to eat meat for this if you are a vegetarian.
For those of you who are carnivores, lean meat and eggs are the way to go: fish, chicken, beef etc. If you can get meats like bison, elk and ostrich they tend to be a high quality lean meat. Aim for lean cuts of meat whatever you choose to go with. When dealing with fish you can aim for fatty meat, such as salmon. The fat in fish aids our bodies in many different ways including helping our brain chemistry and inflammation. Eggs are great as well. Eggs may be one of nature’s perfect foods as they have a host of vitamins, enzymes and protein in them. When using eggs, use the whole egg since the yolk is where most of the nutrients are.
Many people use protein powders and it works well for many, but getting your protein from a whole food source is preferable. Powders are good to use when you are on the road or in a bind, but should be not relied on frequently. If you want to go the protein powder route, make sure that the one you are using is not full of sugar or artificial sweeteners or other fillers, and make sure that your body can handle it. If you get a lot of back pain while consuming protein drinks it could be kidneys swelling due to too much protein that your system is not processing. Or if you notice other reactions, you could have issues with whey. Just pay attention and find the one that works well for your body.
Nuts and seeds can be a great source or proteins, but also keep in mind that they are full of fats, so a little bit can go a long way. The types of nuts and seeds you are eating can also make a difference. Aim for raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, Pecans, walnuts, Cashews etc. Peanut butter can be a delicious treat but your body would get more health benefits from some raw almond butter. When you are going to eat nuts take one small handful instead of sitting down with a bowl of them.
Do you eat protein at every meal? What type do you eat? Is there a better choice? Or do you need to add protein in?
You may think that it is not vital to get your protein in but you will start to see the difference if you keep it up. Protein literally is what we are made of, so while you do not need to eat 10 oz at every meal, at least get a little bit of it in. You will notice your body repairs better when you have it.