If you lead an active lifestyle it’s safe to say that getting enough protein is high on your priority list. But do you actually know the reasons why we need protein? Do you know how much? And do you know the difference between your sources? I’m here to help dispel myths and educate you so you can take your protein knowledge to the next level! Plus I’ve got a bonus high protein recipe for you to try!
WHY DOES OUR BODY NEED PROTEIN?
Protein is one of the 3 macronutrients that our body needs in large amounts in order to function normally (the other two are carbs and fats). It makes up most of our body tissues including hair, skin, nails, bones and muscles of course! As you may know, our bodies are constantly breaking down and reforming, especially if you are active. So consuming adequate protein in your diet is essential in order to maintain healthy muscles, skin, hair, bones, and nails.
Protein quality is determined by the ratio of amino acids and the source of the food in question. Amino acids are classified as essential or non-essential. There are nine essential amino acids, this means they must be eaten. The remaining 11 non-essential amino acids are synthesized by your liver if the essential amino acids are present in your diet. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and foods that contain adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids are classed as complete. The protein provided in food is broken down by your body and reshuffled to create the appropriate amino acids required by your body at that time.
If you are an omnivore (you eat both meat and vegetables) you shouldn’t need to worry about combining your protein sources. If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you may need to pay more attention to ensure you are eating complementary sources of protein together.
DO I NEED PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS?
The average person can acquire all of the protein they need to be healthy from food sources alone BUT many people can benefit from supplementing with protein for various reasons:
- Vegans or vegetarians: if you do not consume animal products, supplementing with a complete plant protein, such as Blessed Plant Protein, can help to ensure you are getting all the essential amino acids your body needs. This is going to be even more important if you lead an active life or are aiming for body composition changes. Blessed Plant Protein is sourced from peas, and has been shown to provide the same muscle-building benefits as whey protein, so I often include it in my diet.
- If you are following a Calorie restricted plan for fat loss but do not wish to compromise on the nutrient density of your diet. Adding a protein supplement has a two-fold positive impact here - increased dietary protein aids weight loss by increasing satiety and also helps to grow and maintain muscle mass, which increases metabolism and hence positively affects fat loss. When I am both muscle building and shredding I use IsoPept Zero post-workout and either Blessed or OxyWhey in my smoothies or as a meal replacement.
- Busy lifestyles: if you lead a busy, active lifestyle and are aiming to improve or maintain your physique, having a protein supplement handy for post-workout emergencies is important. Getting proper nutrition after your training session directly impacts recovery and muscle growth. So even if, on the whole, your diet is nutritionally optimum without the use of a protein supplement, it is worthwhile having one handy for those emergencies when you just can’t get a good post-workout meal into your body.
THE MORE THE MERRIER?
Consuming amounts of protein that exceed the recommendations in the table above does not necessarily mean increased muscle growth or overall improved health. Excess protein (like any other nutrient consumed beyond the body’s needs) is either used as fuel, broken down and restructured to be stored as fat, or excreted as waste. Increasing your protein intake can also start to cut into the ratio of the other macros you’re consuming (fat and carbs). As protein foods tend to be expensive, you’re not doing yourself any favours by consuming an excess of this macro.
Having said that, if your goal is any of the following:
- Muscle maintenance
Getting adequate protein is essential to achieving your goals and is the cornerstone of a high-performance diet if you ask me!
So the important takeaway here is that you want to ensure you are eating enough protein to suit the demands of your lifestyle and training regime, as well as your body composition. I recommend dedicating 30-40% of your daily calories to protein, for me, this equates to about 140-170g of protein per day, depending on whether I’m in a muscle-building phase or not.
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If you want to try my style of nutrition plan, check out my meal plans here to see which of my programs would suit you best and help you to reach your best!