Protein – that’s all about building muscles right? The trend of protein supplementation (commonly protein shakes and bars) has driven the perception and relationship between protein, exercise and muscle growth.
However, protein is actually a vital macronutrient, alongside carbohydrates and fats, meaning that it is essential for it to be consumed daily in ‘large quantities’ for normal growth and bodily functions. We’ve simplified some of the key questions and takeaways from the protein packed media landscape!
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What is it?
Protein is made up of molecules called amino acids, often referred to as the “building blocks” of protein. Of the 20 found in protein, 9 are considered ‘essential’ as the body cannot produce them and they must be consumed from diet. Conversely, the remaining 11 are considered ‘non-essential’ as the body does have the capacity to synthesise (or ‘make’) them.
Protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids are referred to as “complete”. Often these are derived from animal sources such as meat, whey, dairy and eggs. However, for those consuming a plant based diet, fear not, as complete protein sources can be found in soya, quinoa and plant-based protein ‘blends’ that contain multiple plant protein sources.
What are the benefits?
Yes, protein is no doubt vital for repairing damaged cells and tissue. This is often muscle fibres that help improve muscle recovery and build muscle mass. However, protein also has numerous other important benefits:
· Essential in producing hormones such as oestrogen and insulin.
· Producing enzymes used in digestion.
· Transporting oxygen around the body in red blood cells.
· Helping maintain an optimal immune system.
A diet high in protein, particularly combined with fibre, is also great for keeping you fuller for longer and reducing your food cravings (increased satiety).
How much do I need?
The quantity of protein you require can differ significantly based on age, activity level and your ultimate health ‘goal. It is therefore difficult to provide a “one size fits all” approach.
If you are undertaking more intense and regular physical activity, your body will require more daily protein to recover, ranging from 1.2 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you are more sedentary, a regular and varied diet is adequate to perform the essential bodily functions ranging from 1-1.2g grams per kilogram.
How can I get it?
We’ve provided some examples of different protein sources, including plant-based sources, that you might look to incorporate in your diet.
Chicken breast - 31g per 100g
Minced beef – 21g per 100g (extra lean)
Eggs – 6g per medium-sized egg
Dairy – 8g in 250ml of milk; 10g in 100g of Greek yoghurt and 7.5g in 30g of cheddar cheese
Tinned tuna – 28g per averagely sized tin
Quinoa – 14g in 100g uncooked
Nuts & Seeds – 6g in 30g of cashews
Legumes – 19g in 100g of chickpeas
Grains – 12g in 100g of uncooked pasta
Tubers – 6g in a large baked potato
Having a consistent quantity of protein across each meal of the day (plus snacks) can help your body digest, use and optimise the benefits of the protein intake. This is particularly important when looking to utilise the recovery benefits of protein from physical activity.
This article was written with help from balanced, high protein cereal company ELEAT (www.eleatcereal.com). Check out the Offers section of your app to unlock and exclusive discount!