When it comes to protein intake - the information out there can be confusing and like most health articles in the mainstream media, it can leave you still looking for answers??
How much should I consume? should I be concerned about where I get it from? Will I get too big if I eat too much protein? Will I damage my kidneys if I eat too much?
So many questions - yet the answers are really quite simple.
Here are a few things to help you understand the role protein plays in the human body starting with a bit of basic science.
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins. Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life. When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left.
Since our bodies need proteins and amino acids to produce important molecules in our body – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies – without an adequate protein intake, our bodies can’t function well at all.
Amino acids are classified into three groups see table below.
Essential means they cannot be synthesized by the human body and must be obtained through diet. Conditionally non-essential means our bodies can’t always make as much as we need e.g. during times of stress. Non-essential means the-the body can make these by itself.
One thing we need to clear up is that protein will not damage your kidneys unless you have a pre-existing kidney disease. Research in this area has been misconstrued in the media. In fact, there is zero published research showing that eating high amounts of protein is damaging to the kidneys. Zero.
With the basic science bit out of the way, what does all this mean for you?
Easier weight loss!! Yes that's right, higher protein diets have been shown to help you lose more weight and keep it off for longer whilst protecting muscle tissue
Protein builds muscle!! Yes, this is key to a toned physique that accentuates the natural shape of the body plus it allows you to build strength a lot faster
Protein will help you feel fuller for longer!! By increasing protein intake you can decrease appetite, high-protein meals are more satiating than high-fat meals, which means you feel fuller for longer, making you less likely to overeat
To help you understand what a sufficient portion of protein looks like, the following will give you approx 30g protein per serving (we advise 3-4 servings per day):
300g Total 0% Greek Yoghurt
125g Smoked Salmon
1 x Chicken Breast
1.5 Scoops of Whey Protein
150g Lean Minced Beef
1 x Tin of Tuna
175g King Prawns
4 x Medium Eggs
2 x Lightly dusted haddock fillets
Those who don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy products need to eat a wide variety of protein-containing plant-based foods. Beans, legumes, Quinoa, and soya are all decent options.
Whilst we recommend tracking your food intake in the initial stages of dieting, it is not the be-all and end-all of getting results. Another method that is easily usable and sometimes less stressful is to simply use the palm of the hand as a rough guide to protein portion size. This method has been popularised by the guys at Precision Nutrition.
For women, one palm-sized portion of protein per meal. For men, two palms sized protein portions per meal.
The take-home here is that protein will make weight loss easier, help to build muscle and give you that toned look, will help you feel fuller for longer and support regeneration and growth of the tissues in the body after training and beyond.