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Proteins are composed of both essential and non-essential amino acids (AA), with differing amino acid chains determining their functioning within the body. Unlike non-essential AA that can be made by the body itself, Essential AA need to be consumed via the diet to meet recommended intakes. Proteins are continuously being broken down in the body, so we need large amounts each day to help repair, renew, and restore muscle tissue, enhance bone health, immunity and regulate hormones.
Protein is an essential component of our muscle tissue. Within our body, there is a continuous breakdown and resynthesis of body proteins, whether this is to modify wrongly formed proteins, provide energy when not enough food is ingested, or allow adaptive changes. Consuming adequate protein in our diet therefore helps to supply essential amino acids to the body to ensure protein is synthesised within the body. It’s important to note that this must coincide with sufficient overall energy intake, the priority for anyone wishing to achieve their health and fitness goals.
Bone tissue is made up of around 50% protein, which makes it essential that individuals consume sufficient protein to support the rate of bone turnover. In addition, protein has also been shown to increase IGF-1 production, a hormone that is involved in the formation of bone. It’s super important to maintain a decent level of protein intake throughout the life span so that there is an optimal growth and development phase within youth individuals and maintenance of bone density during the natural ageing processes. By doing so, we can help to protect ourselves from any detrimental consequences.
The digestion of all foods can be attributed to the thermic effect of food, which contributes to around 10% of daily energy expenditure. Protein is the macronutrient that takes the longest to digest, meaning that following a high-protein meal, women may feel fuller for longer before their next meal. This may be super important for individuals who are looking to lose weight and need to reduce their average energy intake.
The immune system’s ability to enhance resistance to diseases and viruses is dependant on adequate energy from fuel sources. Protein has been well documented to help produce proteins such as cytokines and immunoglobulins, critical components for enhancing our immunity!
Most of the energy is derived from both carbohydrates and fat. There are conditions during which energy contribution from protein may be higher (e.g., when glucose levels are diminished), meaning that the contribution from protein varies between 3-10%.
Due to the importance of protein, general recommendations suggest that 1.2-2.0g/kg of protein is suitable for individuals. Higher intakes (between 1.5-2g/kg) may be warranted for those wanting to reduce energy intake for fat loss or to optimise muscle protein synthesis following training.
To calculate the right protein amounts, simply x your body weight (kg) by the above recommendations:
If you are a 60kg strength-training female wanting to build muscle, aiming for 2g/kg (120g/d) could be ideal
Many people struggle to hit their protein targets. However, through emphasising an educational approach on the importance of protein, as well as providing some tips as to how we can consciously increase our intake, meeting daily recommendations for your health and fitness goals should not be a problem.
Include a high-quality source and additional sources in every meal:
When talking about high-quality protein sources, we usually mean those sources that have a high digestibility rate and net protein utilisation, and whether it supplies all essential amino acids, that cannot be produced by the body itself. Sources with high digestibility scores are both whey and soy products. The potency of alternative plant sources is yet to be fully investigated.
Swap out usual snacks for protein-based snacks:
This is not to say you should swap out all your favourite snacks however, it may be a good idea to have high-protein snacks in your cupboard to help increase intake. Some snacks include yogurt, fruit and nut butter; boiled egg on toast; almond butter and banana; baby bells; ½ can roasted chickpeas; edamame beans; protein bars; frozen yogurt; nuts and seeds; chocolate milk; cottage cheese and Ryvita.
Spread intake throughout the day:
As a guide, aim for 20-30g of protein every 3-4 hours during the day to help meet daily recommendations – this may mean increasing portion sizes of protein!
Many people tend to miss out on protein at breakfast, so start early to get intake high from the off
Eat your protein first:
As protein is the most satiating macronutrient, eating it before the rest of your plate may help to boost numbers up!
Although you should always prioritise a whole-food approach, supplementation may be required when recommendations cannot be met through your diet alone, or if your diet cannot be altered to increase protein intake (e.g., time constraints, availability). There are lots of different protein powders/bars on the market, and the most important factor is personal choice. Explore your favourite flavour/brand and see what sticks!
We have worked with hundreds of clients who are wanting to get their intake nailed consistently, and most importantly - sustainably.
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