Many people are mindful today of the importance of protein and realise its benefits for muscle strength and steady, spike-free glucose levels. However, many still hold misconceptions about this important nutrient. Protein is not all steak and protein shakes, and it can’t be consumed totally guilt free. Here’s some important information about protein and some great tips to ensure that you get enough – but not too much – of the good stuff.
1. Protein doesn’t just come from animals.
For those who eat meat, it is a convenient way to ingest protein as meat contains a high percentage of protein compared to other foods. Also, as long as you are discerning about the type of meat you eat, it can be low in fat too (just make sure you trim off any excess fat).
Be aware, however, that there are other really good sources of protein including lentils, black eyed peas, buckwheat, oatmeal, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds and chia.
2. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing
Yes, you can overeat on protein. Excessive protein consumption is not good for the kidneys, and, as with overeating any nutrient or food, the excess is stored as fat.
3. You can work out how much protein you need daily
How much protein should you eat? Here’s a rough guide. If you’re a relatively active individual that exercises regularly every week, you will need a proximally 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 60 kg, you’ll require approximately 90 g of protein per day. If you weigh 80 kg, you’ll need approximately 120 g of protein per day. Remember that your intake should be spread throughout the day, which leads to the next point.
4. Make sure you eat protein throughout the day
While you may think that everyone knows about this, it is surprising how many people still think that you can eat all your required protein into one big meal at the end of the day. Eating a massive steak, for example, is not the answer as the excess protein will be stored as fat. The same applies to iron in that there is a limit to how much we can absorb at one time. Think that’s a bit inconvenient? Don’t despair. It just requires a change of attitude. By all means, enjoy that piece of steak – just make sure it is not too large – and try to get your recommended daily allowance over several meals rather than just one.
Including protein in all your meals and snacks throughout the day is not difficult. Here are a few ways to sneak the protein in:
- try a protein shake as a snack
- add flaxseeds or chia to your protein shakes, salads & cereals
- add protein powder to your muesli, or try adding it when making muffins or energy snacks
- add black beans to brownies (truly!) or red lentils to cookies. Not only will this up the protein, but it will substantially lift the fibre content and make them healthier overall
- snack on nuts
- hard-boil eggs and eat them as snacks or include them with your breakfast or lunch
5. It’s not essential to ingest a protein shake immediately post workout.
Many people encourage this idea, and it’s based on past scientific information that has now been updated. It is true that after a workout the body more readily absorbs nutrients. It does this in order to top up your amino acid and glycogen stores, start protein synthesis and stimulate muscle growth. The latest research indicates that the period for this activity is broader than originally thought. You have around two hours after a workout to start up this recovery process. More important though, is regularly consuming small amounts of protein throughout the day, so you’re constantly refilling supplies.
Protein is an important nutrient for all of us. Make sure you include a variety of different foods to get your quota. This way, you also include a wider variety of other important nutrients. Just remember to eat little bits often, and keep the big picture in mind. Think of your overall nutrition intake and don’t abuse your body with excess calories in the name of protein refuelling.
Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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