“Eat protein to build muscle”
“Protein is the essential workout fuel”
“Get more protein in your diet”
“Sore? Eat more protein”
Chances are you’ve heard one or more of these statements about protein. Okay, okay WE GET IT, protein is important. I’ll go home and eat my “protein bar” that is also packed with sugar and call it a day, deal?
Have you ever wondered why protein is so highly talked about? Or maybe how it can be so important? Better yet, what is the best way to incorporate it into your diet?
Proteins are broken down into 2 main forms: essential and non-essential
- Essential proteins: are those that the body cannot make on its own, and therefore we must get it through food sources. Examples of foods that contain these proteins include both animal and plant sources such as eggs, meat, soybeans, and quinoa
- Non-essential proteins: are those that our body can make itself, therefore we do not need to try to get it through our food, although we can find these in foods.
Think of it this way: it is essential for us to consume protein foods to get our essential proteins, but it is not essential and not necessary to try to get our non-essential proteins through food sources.
Now as far as how much protein we need depends on the individual person. If a 110 lb female walked up to a 220 lb male and asked how much protein he ate in a day and then tried to match it, it just would not work. She would be trying to consume twice as much protein as needed for her body type, and would also get full much faster, use her calories for protein and miss out on her other macronutrients, and put her body into a basic protein shock. She would start storing protein as fat.
A better way to figure out how much YOU need is to follow the basic “equation”:
1.2-1.7g per kg of body weight OR .36g per 1 lb of body weight
Now for the fun stuff, how and why protein is beneficial:
- Promotes muscle growth and maintenance
- Supports strong bone health by enhancing strong muscles
- Helps in weight maintenance by enhancing the feeling of fullness and/or suppressing appetite
Tips for choosing protein in a healthy diet:
- Be aware of portion sizes- read the labels, and portion out the recommended serving onto a separate plate to prevent over-consuming
- Be mindful at restaurants- fast food and sit down restaurants often will serve 2-3X the serving size for normal protein dishes (this also goes for carb and fat serving sizes as well). Order one dish to split to prevent overeating and over macronutrient consumption
- Remember that although a food might meet your protein needs, it might also be high in fat and calories!
- Pair your protein with healthy fats and whole grains for a well rounded, and delicious, meal