Do you eat a low protein diet? Or are you not sure..? Well, if you think you can improve your appetite control, cravings, hormonal balance, skin, nail and hair quality. Or, if you are unable to lose or gain weight, then increasing your protein intake may be your answer! In this blog, you will learn what the optimal amount of protein consumption is and what sort of foods to consider to get your protein intake up!
This blog includes:
▪ What is protein and why is it important?
▪ How much protein should you be consuming
▪ What are the best sources of protein
▪ Three tips you can use!
What is protein and why is it important?
Protein is an essential macronutrient; once digested, it is broken down into amino acids. Our body doesn’t store amino acids, so when they are required, amino acids are made by the body. There are a total of 20 amino acids that are needed by the body, however, nine ‘essential’ amino acids cannot be made by the body and can only be derived from food sources.
Protein is important for supporting muscle growth and maintenance as well as repairs and recovers tissue damage after exercise.
It is also crucial to every cell in our body as it makes up our DNA and creates the structural framework for our hormones. Hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen, is made up of protein molecules. Oxygen is carried by hemoglobin along with our nutrients to our tissues for energy. Therefore if we are not consuming enough protein, our body is unable to synthesize hemoglobin and our tissues and cells are not receiving enough energy from our food.
Protein is one of the most satiating nutrients. Because of this, it regulates our appetite, cravings and metabolism. In extension to this, having a healthy metabolism is the key to maintaining a healthy body composition.
Get in contact with our Sports Dietitian here, for individualized help to increase your protein intake.
How much protein should you be consuming?
The recommended dietary intake (RDI) values are estimated based on the average population. The RDI for adult females are currently at 0.75g/kg/day and for males 0.84g/kg/day.
However, for athletes and for those in a calorie deficit, a higher range is required to compete with energy requirements, tissue turnover and maintenance. Therefore aim to consume 1.5-2.2g/kg of protein each day for optimal health.
What are the best sources of protein?
Not all food sources are created equal in protein quantity but more importantly, also in quality. High quality protein sources contain all nine essential amino acids, the amino acids that cannot be made by our body.
These protein sources are called ‘complete’ and are usually found in animal-based products. These sources also tend to be higher in protein, due to the main macronutrient being protein. Without consumption of these essential amino acids, protein’s role in the body cannot function.
Complete Protein Sources:
Soy (Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame, Miso)
Incomplete proteins are usually plant-derived proteins, where they do not contain all nine essential amino acids. However, when you combine some incomplete protein sources, it can make up the essential amino acids. These complementary proteins do not need to be consumed together in one meal and can be distributed across the day.
It is important to note that incomplete proteins also tend to be higher in carbohydrates and fats, where overall protein quantity is lower. Consuming sufficient protein as a vegan can be challenging due to the quantity required of these foods, therefore supplementing with vegan protein powder can be a good way to enhance intake.
Incomplete Protein Sources:
Peanut butter and wholemeal bread
Hummus on bread or crackers
Lentils and/or beans with rice
Lentils and/or beans with bread
Here are 4 tips that you can use to increase your protein intake:
Make sure you have a high protein breakfast meal
Starting your first meal off with a high protein meal means that you have added a large amount of protein to your total daily protein intake. Omitting protein by choosing porridge, cereal or lower protein options, can make it difficult to make up your protein requirements in the later portion of the day. If you are choosing such foods, adding protein powder or a protein smoothie to the side can help to ramp it up!
Opting for eggs and a protein smoothie in the morning can set your day up nicely.
Increase your protein portion of your plate AND eat the protein portion on your plate first!
Do you only have 1 egg for breakfast? Try and have 2 or 3!
Only having 1 chicken thigh for breakfast? Try to have 1.5 or 2!
Add in a protein smoothie as a snack rather than a plain piece of fruit!
Protein increases satiety, leaving you feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer. It can also keep your blood sugar and insulin levels stable and avoid it from rising too high post meal.
Choosing higher protein snacks
Choosing a filling snack that is packed with protein will also minimize your feeling of hunger and keep you satiated throughout the day.
Cottage Cheese and crackers
Prioritise animal protein sources, or complementary plant protein sources.
Animal proteins such as meat, poultry and seafood are primary sources of protein. Meaning the main macronutrient providing calories comes from protein. However plant protein sources contain protein, but their main source of calories can come from either carbohydrates or fats.
Therefore to get a similar amount of protein from plant sources, calorie intake can exceed a realistic amount of food consumed in a main meal. Therefore using animal protein as your main source and adding plant protein to complement your meal can be useful.
For those who are vegetarian or vegan, soy and quinoa have a full amino acid profile, however other sources do not. To combat this, use complementary plant protein sources to ensure that you receive a full amino acid profile. For e.g. brown rice and beans, peanut butter and wholemeal bread.
However it will remain important to supplement with protein through vegan powder to ensure you are receiving sufficient amounts of protein as carbohydrates and fats still remain the higher portion of macronutrients in these foods.
To learn more about meal options before and after your training, you can contact our Dietitian to find out which suits you best.
Need help choosing the right diet for you? Click here to talk to our professional dietitian.