Protein: How much do we need to eat?

Protein: How much do we need to eat?

Protein: How much do we need to eat?

Protein: it’s essential for our health! “High protein diets” or “high protein plant-based breakfasts”. These are the buzzwords dominating parts of the snack and food industry. These days, protein has become more incorporated into our diet and vocabulary. On top of that, as consumers learn more about it’s benefits, demand for high-protein fortified food products has risen by almost 500%. As demand has increased, so too has the supply of protein, especially in products: For example, It’s easy to find foods powered with protein in savoury snacks, cereals, dairy products right through to fizzy drinks (even water! Ha ha). Protein based foods and drinks may seem strange at first - but it’s great to see the supermarket shelves diversify and the choice is never ending - allowing us to indulge in different products. Especially given that protein was once associated with athletes or body builders: Protein is now more accessible than ever. Of course, though,  it’s important for us to unpack: What protein is and what it can do for our bodies? That’s the goal of this blog and our concept at Manna, as we educate our readers on foods and how it can nourish your body - just like our snacks. 

 What is protein?

Protein is composed of amino acids which are essential to sustain and repair your muscles and tissues, as well as produce hormones and enzymes at work in your body.  Protein also stimulates the release of glucose in the small intestine, that’s what helps you feel full. On a more technical level, Protein is a structural molecule assembled out of amino acids, which are linked together like beads on a string. These linked amino acids form long protein chains, which are then folded into complex shapes many of which your body can’t produce on its own. These are called essential amino acids and are obtained through the food we digest.

Not all proteins are equal 

Understanding the nature of protein can be complex, because not all proteins are created equally.  When you think of protein, beef or chicken may come to mind, however, if you follow or are considering a plant-based or vegetarian here are more examples:

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Recommended amount of protein for good health:

The reference nutrient intake, as Set by the British Nutrition Foundation :  

  • For adults = 0.75g per kg of body weight per day.
  • For an adult  weighing (60kg) - (9.4 stone) -  (130lbs) your RNI is 45g per day
  • For an adult weighing (85kg) - (13.4 stone) - (`87.4lbs) your RNI is 64g per day

Examples of protein: it’s already present in almost all of the food we eat.

Protein is naturally present in almost all foods - nature knows what our bodies need! 

Nature creates foods with a mix of carbs and proteins such as vegetables, grains, legumes, or a mix of fats and proteins such as meat, fish, and eggs, or all three carbs, proteins & fats, such as nuts and seeds. This means that we already consume more protein than we might think. The right amount of protein for any one individual depends on many factors, including their activity level, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health.
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2 reasons Why we need protein:

  1. Consuming protein in our diets is essential for good health, yes! 
  2. It helps to build and maintain muscle mass, it also helps your body with a number of important functions.

Consume high protein if your body needs it. 

Today our social feeds are filled with other eating plans such as Keto plus the influx of food products claiming to be ‘high in protein’, it’s worth taking a moment to understand whether our bodies can actually utilise the added consumption.  Bodybuilding, elite athlete training, or strength training for example, will require a higher intake of protein for muscle growth, but for most of us the RNI- reference nutrient intake amount is enough to meet our needs.  Since our body isn’t able to store excess protein for later use, the excess conversion of protein to energy results in increased calorie intake which the body stores as fat if it cannot burn it off.

Well-informed = choosing products that sustain your energy levels

I am not a calorie counter and firmly believe and practise eating super healthy foods,  it’s the foundation of living a healthy lifestyle. I generally eat my main calories for breakfast,  lunch and dinner and always include carbs, fats and proteins.  To sustain my energy levels in between these meals I generally eat a healthy natural snack bar or a piece of fruit or a handful of raw nuts, I try to avoid anything processed or laced with refined sugars (it’s worth checking the labels of what you are eating!). My healthy eating habits allow me to consume enough calories roughly 1500-2000 depending on daily my activity levels.  Snacking in-between meals is a great way to boost your energy levels and should not be meal replacements.  After a high-intensity workout I would sometimes opt for a plant-protein shake rather than a high protein snack bar. 

I hope you find this blog useful and are better informed about your daily protein reference intake. This should hopefully allow you to start planning and varying your meal plans.  I mentioned earlier in the blog that I enjoy a plant-based diet over meat simply because I am somebody who eats with eyes and palate. I absolutely adore most fruits and vegetables and find that my body actually craves this food group adjusting particularly when seasonal.   

 

Key things to takeaway: 

  • Creating good eating habits helps you manage your food cravings effectively. If you are considering increasing your protein intake allow your decision to be led by your needs and not be deceived by marketing buzzword ‘high in protein
  • If your fitness training isn’t specifically tailored to build muscle, then a slight increase of 1.2g - 1.5g protein per kg of body weight is sufficient.
  • If your fitness training is tailored to build muscle or significant power & strength training such as sprinting or power-ride, then increase 1.6g - 2.g protein per kg is more suitable.

I'm not disregarding these current trends in fortified snacks (they are a source of quick protein), but just consider whether you are consuming too much of a good thing! No matter how nutrient dense your diet may be, if you’re overeating, it can be calorie dense, and if your body isn’t burning off those calories, they will get stored as fat