The Scoop on Protein

ProteinPowder 300x200 The Scoop on Protein

 

It is becoming abundantly clear that protein is important for our bodies, but have you ever found yourself wondering why?  Here are kick ass reasons to incorporate more today.

In last week’s Menu Monday post I talked about what a macro actually is, today we’ll talk about the macronutrient protein,: how your body uses it, where you can find it, how much you need, and why it is so important.

Protein is the introvert of the macro family, its extroverted counter parts fat and carbohydrate hogging nearly all the limelight when it comes to ideas about how to manipulate your diet. So much work and development and marketing dollars have been spent teaching people to remove fat and carbohydrates from their food, but how often do you hear “experts” say you need less protein?

Rarely.

So, uh, what is protein?

The building blocks of protein, amino acids, form together in different combinations called peptide chains, depending on their purpose in your body. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down and reforms these peptide chains according to what your body needs them for. There are 12 non-essential amino acids that are naturally produced in your cells, and 8 essential amino acids that must be provided through diet. Even veganism and vegetarianism acknowledge the importance of adequate daily protein intake, and have a doubly difficult task of finding sources for the 8 essential amino acids from products made from non-animal sources.

The omnivores certainly have it easier; as most animal products contain all 8 essential amino acids our bodies need.

These amino acids need to be continually replenished in order to complete their important work, including functions like: protein synthesis for muscle tissue and synthesis of other tissue enzymes, shuttling things around for hormonal and immunity functions, and production of neurotransmitters in the brain. They are responsible for our structure (our skin, bones, and muscles), for facilitating communication within our systems, and many other things inside the cells as well.

This is why the protein target is often the first I focus on hitting when I am trying to improve my health with my food.

What Does Ideal Protein Intake Look Like?

When it comes to how much is ideal for you, it can vary vastly amongst different people due to physiology, circumstances, histories, etc.   If you are looking to improve the way you feel, start by trying to consume half of your body weight in protein each day for a couple of weeks and assess how you feel. If it is manageable, try to increase it by 10% for the next couple of weeks.

There is conflicting research about whether increasing daily intake past 1gram for every pound of bodyweight is beneficial, and even in the cases it is it is mostly found in athlete populations. But, generally, 50-80% of your bodyweight in grams each day is a good target. Most bodies LOVE an increase in protein and reward you with more energy, strength and power, however, there are certain digestive tract complications that do not, so please speak to your doctor before changing your diet in any significant way.

So, what actually counts as a protein?

An important thing to remember is that most protein also contains fat so it will need to be accounted for in both macro calculations. The leanest options are white fishes and seafood, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, bison/buffalo, game, and then we get into the higher fat meats like beef, duck, fattier fish like salmon, and pork. There are also essential protein amino acids found in a host of vegetables (like spinach) and grains (like quinoa), but in the absence of animal products they need to be consumed with foods containing the other missing essential amino acids (like lentils and legumes) in order to form complete proteins in your cells.

Is supplementation a good idea?

If you are finding it difficult to eat more than 50% of your bodyweight in protein calories a day, a high quality protein powder may be a good addition to your pantry. Just make sure it has 25grams of protein or more per serving. It doesn’t need any other fancy stuff. I tolerate dairy well so I prefer whey protein that is sweetened with stevia and flavored naturally. It is made from milk (it’s actually the byproduct of cheese making) and contains the most protein bang for your buck. Whey is one of the most researched supplements on the market, I feel confident that the ingredients are what is stated. That said, I try to eat my nutrients most days and so don’t use a supplement every day, and I try to keep it capped at one serving per day when I do.

This is a video about my favourite Canadian brand of protein powder right now. I did not make any money from this review, and it is not an affiliate link. I just love it!

Leave a comment if you have any questions or share this if you think you know people who can use the info.

Thanks for reading!

xo,

Amber

 

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