WHAT DOES PROTEIN DO FOR THE BODY?
Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which your body can make (called “nonessential” amino acids), and some which you must obtain from food (called “essential” amino acids). Protein is the principal component of every cell in the body and is needed to build and repair tissues. It provides the building blocks for important hormones and digestive enzymes. Your body uses protein to carry oxygen in the blood and is needed for a healthy immune system. Protein is also important for blood sugar control and keeping you feeling fuller for longer periods of time. That’s why we recommend that every meal and snack contain some form of protein.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN DOES THE BODY NEED?
There's a lot of conflicting information about how much protein your body needs. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) states that you need 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. So, a 145-pound person (65.9 kg) would need 52.7 grams of protein a day. It has been argued that this is the minimum to prevent deficiency, and nitrogen balance studies have shown that there is a higher need for athletes, regardless of their sport.
While the body has the capacity to store carbohydrate and fat, there is no such storage for protein, which is why it must be consumed daily. When too much protein is consumed, it is either used as an inefficient source of energy or converted to fat. Excessive protein consumption can also result in dehydration, which also negatively effects the body.
If you’re like me and hate doing all that math, aim to have protein make up about 15 to 35 percent of your total calorie intake.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the protein needs of vegetarian athletes are no different than that of an omnivore, provided they consume a varied diet that includes complementary proteins. Because most plant-based foods are incomplete proteins (they are missing one essential amino acid), it is recommended that vegetarians consume a blend of protein-rich foods during the course of the day to provide all the essential amino acids. Some researchers and professional groups put the protein needs of vegetarian and vegan athletes higher due to the digestibility of plant-based proteins. Vegan athletes, whose primary sources of protein are nuts, seeds, soy and legumes, should aim for an additional 12 grams of protein each day.
Most plant-based proteins are missing at least one essential amino acid and are therefore considered “incomplete” proteins. Exceptions include soy, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat, which contain all of the essential amino acids. Other plant-based proteins, including vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, are incomplete but when eaten during the same day (i.e., beans and rice) all the essential amino acids are available to the body.
BEST TYPES OF PROTEIN
As mentioned earlier, protein is made up of amino acids, some of which are considered “essential” because our bodies cannot make them and must be obtained from food. However, that doesn’t mean that all of our protein choices must come from foods that have all of the essential amino acids. Instead, be aware of what foods contain protein and choose a variety of them each day.
If you have any questions on protein, nutrition, workouts and fitness in general please contact us today!