Protein is another sadly misunderstood macronutrient that usually has the opposite problem of carbohydrates, people tend to think they need more than they do. Many fad diets preach the goodness of seriously reducing or eliminating carbohydrates of any type, and increase protein…increase it to an excessive amount.
Proteins are basically chains on a cellular level and the links of these chains are made up of essential and non-essential amino acids. Protein’s functions include: building and rebuilding muscle, building blocks of DNA, building blocks for tissues, they aid in transport around the body for digestion and metabolism, protein is also really important in terms of feeling full. I recommend to my patient that for snacks and meals there is always healthy carb, and protein. After about an hour to an hour and a half following that snack your carbs as an energy source are going to taper off, but if you added a protein in with that carb that protein will buy you an extra 60-90 minutes beyond that.
Protein is also AWESOMESAUCE in terms of immune support- proteins help build antibodies.
Amino acids are either essential or non-essential essential proteins are proteins are proteins that can’t be made in the body, and therefore they need found in food, and once you find the food-eat the food. Non-essential amino acids can be made in the body, so you don’t need to rely on food to get them.
Then there are plant proteins (protein sources that come from plants), and animal protein sources (yeah protein you get from meat). Animal proteins contain all essential amino acids. You eat piece of chicken, fish, or beef, and you get all your essential amino acids.
Plant proteins (beans, nuts) are incomplete proteins meaning they do not contain all of the essential amino acids. So you need to combine different plant proteins (beans and rice) to get all of the essential amino acids.
Soy is the only exception to this- soy is a complete protein. Rock on tofu. Soy also can edge out those animal proteins in regard to fat. If you are watching your cholesterol/fat intake soy is a fantastical way to get great protein without fat.
Now how much protein do you need? So the average human who is lightly to moderately active needs ~1 gram per kilogram of body weight. The more active you are the more protein you need. Protein is essential for building muscle and tissue, and repair muscle and tissues- specifically following exercise.
If muscle building is a house, protein is literally the cement, and brick of that house. I will use myself as an example. I weight 135 lbs so 61 kilos, I am a healthy individual, and and I am officially in training mode for some multiple upcoming half marathons so I am exercising at least 4 times per week, and aiming for 5-6 days per week. Therefore I am eating a bit more protein (more than the 1 gram I mentioned above). On most days I getting between 65-75 grams of protein 1.1-1.2 g of protein per kilo).
I do this by making sure I get protein at each meal, and eat snacks. On days I know I’m going to be more active I plan to get more protein. My protein sources:
-Clif Builders Bar (great for a pre-work out snack, or for a post run recovery snack) 20 g of protein
-Clif Bar Blueberry Crisp (10 g)
-Clif Mojo Peanut butter pretzel (10 g)
-Tilapia (~6 oz) 29 g
-1 Cup fat free cottage cheese (26g)
-1 cup lentils (18 g)
-6 oz salmon (30 g)
-1 Jenny-O Turkey Burger (19 g)
-3 oz ground beef (95 lean/5 fat) (45 g)
– 1/2 block tofu (30 g)
-PB2 4 Tbsp (10 g)
-1 Large egg (6g)
-GNC Vanilla bean Lean shake (25 g)
I get my protein in about 3-4 hours in prior to my workouts and a tiny bit right before, then protein at my recovery meal. If I eat anything during a run I will only so a gel and/or take in carbs. Too much protein too close to a run will mean digestion during my run. Meaning my blood flow will be focused in on my tum and its digestion instead of focusing on my hard working muscles. This is less than ideal.
At a later time I will get into why high protein low carb diets are ill advised.
Some of my favorite protein mythes to close this:
– protein gives you energy
– lot’s of protein will cause you bulk up and get huge
– there’s protein in fruit
– high protein intakes allows for bulking up on muscle mass
– we all need the same amount of protein
– too much protein can’t be bad
(These are all mythes by the way).