Protein - is it as important as everyone says?

February 19, 2019

 

Within nutrition there are many fads and trends. This makes it hard to know what you should be looking for and doing within your diet. 

 

There has been low fat, low carb, low sugar, low salt, high fat.to mention a few. Currently there is a huge trend with high protein products, protein bars and increased protein intake in general. So how important is protein and how much should you be consuming?

 

What is protein?

 

First, we have to know what protein is. Without getting into the science too much, protein is made up of amino acids (AA). There are 20 in total and 9 of these are essential (EAA). A complete protein e.g. beef contains all of these, an incomplete protein is missing at least one of the EAA e.g. nuts. I'll explain why this is important later.

 

 

Why is Protein important? 

 

 

Here is a simple list of what your body uses protein for:

 

1. Muscle recovery

2. Muscle retention (when losing weight)

3. Healthy skin and hair

4. Immune function

5. weight loss - higher satiation and slight increase in metabolic rate 

 

 

How much protein should I be consuming?

 

This depends on various things. One thing you don't have to worry about is eating too much protein, as although some people have said it is bad for your liver, studies have shown no adverse effects from insanely high protein diets (Friedman, 2004). 

 

The current UK guidelines state you should have 50 grams of Protein a day (NHS, 2017). This is not enough for most people especially if you are in a calorie deficit (trying to lose fat) or exercising. A good amount to aim for is between 1.2 and 2 grams per KG of body weight. So if you weighed 80KG, then around 96-160 grams a day.   

 

 

What sources should I be getting my protein from?

 

Referencing back to 'what is protein', it is very important (especially if you don't eat meat or animal products) to eat a range of proteins to ensure you get all the Amino acids. Meat, dairy, fish and animal products will be your main source of protein, but there are many other foods high in protein that you can consume to reach your optimal levels for the day. Quinoa for example is a non-animal product which is a complete protein. 

 

Myths

 

Many myths about protein exists such as the 'bad for your liver' one mentioned earlier. Another common one is you can only absorb 20-30 grams in one go. If this were the case, then you could eat all the protein you wanted and would never put on weight as your body wouldn't absorb it. Most people, however, would only need 20-30 grams to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, going over this is fine. 

 

One other myth, often heard from vegetarians or vegans, is that there is just as much protein in broccoli than in beef. This comes from the fact that there is roughly 9 grams of protein per 100kcal of broccoli and the same for beef. However, to get 20 grams of protein from beef you would have to eat 100 grams, which is not even one fillet. Whereas for broccoli you would have to eat 770 grams..... Have fun with that!

 

 

This sums up pretty much everything you need to know! Any other questions just let me know!!

 

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