Are we obsessed with protein?
High-protein diets are now commonplace– with diets advocating that people eat large quantities of fish, meat, eggs, nuts and cheese in order to lose weight. In the UK alone, 37% of people believe protein helps with weight loss, and 43% of women eat more to prevent weight gain. However some scientists suggest that high protein intake is linked to increased cancer, diabetes, and overall mortality in middle age. And restricting other foods, such as high-fibre fruit and vegetables, may cause other health problems from constipation to vitamin deficiency.
So should we worry about how much protein we eat?
Why do we need protein?
Protein can be found in all cells of the body and is the major structural component of all cells in the body, especially muscle
Protein is a nutrient needed by the human body for growth and repair
Protein is created from amino acids, which the human body makes either from scratch, or by modifying other amino acids. Essential amino acids come from food, and animal protein delivers all the amino acids we need.
Proteins are also used in membranes, hormones, immune response, cellular repair, and other molecules essential for life.
Protein is needed to form blood cells
How much do you need?
As a rough guide, one protein portion should fit in to the palm of your hand and we should aim for rough 2 of these portions a day
Many people add protein to their diet using powders and shakes, but how much protein do we actually need each day? On average, men should eat 55g and women 45g of protein daily. That’s about 2 palm-sized portions of meat, fish, tofu, nuts or pulses, But most people find it very easy to eat a lot more. Men and women in the UK eat about 45-55% more protein than they need each day, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
Do we need protein supplements?
In A word NO!
Protein is an excellent source if ingested naturally it will help you feel satiated making you feel fuller than both fat and carbs,
Try using Silken tofu, an egg or egg white, peanut butter, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, cacao nibs, walnuts or oats, to boost the protein content of meals using natural ingredients.
Protein powders like whey isolate and foods marketed as being protein-heavy are now commonplace. Shakes can add substantial amounts of extra protein to the diet, with some offering up to 55g per serving. (A full day’s amount)
Protein helps muscle development and recovery after exercise, but a healthy diet alone can provide the protein needed for muscle recovery.
In fact, milk is an ideal post-exercise drink, milk’s protein content and carbohydrate from natural and added sugars will refuel muscle glycogen stores.
What happens if you eat too much?
Processing excess protein can put pressure on the kidneys, with excess animal protein linked with kidney stones and, in people with a pre-existing condition, kidney disease. The kidneys take care of some filtering of waste products made when our bodies digest protein, and there's some evidence to suggest that diets higher in protein put a greater strain on the kidneys
One of the waste products created by the kidneys during the filtering process is blood urea nitrogen. Doctors use blood urea nitrogen levels to evaluate kidney function, and it's also a measure of how hydrated a person, Studies have shown as protein intake went up, hydration went down, likely because the body has to use more water to flush out that additional nitrogen,
Some experts say too much protein may impact bone health and be a factor in osteoporosis. According to the British Dietetic Association,
Excessively high levels of protein can also cause side effects such as nausea.
Good protein sources
Meat, products from milk, eggs, soy, and fish are sources of complete protein
Those who don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy products need to eat a wide variety of protein-containing plant-based foods.
Quinoa and soya beans are the only plant foods to contain all essential amino acids
King of food protein is the humble egg. A medium egg has around 6g of protein of the highest biological value, meaning it comes complete with all 20 amino acids in the most digestible form. An omelette is a good way to start the day and is a good recovery snack too.
Dairy foods are packed with protein and contain bone-building calcium, too. Milk is the age-old recovery food after exercise, since it contains energy-replenishing carbohydrates and a blend of both slow and fast release whey and casein proteins.
A combination of casein and whey protein, yoghurt is a great protein-rich food. Since most of the lactose is removed, it can work for most people who are lactose intolerant.
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are good sources of protein and are typically low in fat. While slightly higher in fat than other varieties, salmon packs in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re dairy intolerant, eating soya protein foods such as tofu and soya-based drinks will help post-recovery, plus they can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Nuts, such as pistachios are a practical protein choice if you’re on the move. Around 50 pistachio nuts will provide 6g of protein, plus sodium and potassium, the electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise..
High quality proteins also contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are key in supporting muscle recovery. Leucine, in particular, makes up one third of muscle protein and helps to stimulate repair after exercise. Pork is one of the richest sources of leucine
Chicken and Turkey
When it comes to animal protein, opt for lean protein from white meat poultry such as chicken and turkey. It’s wise to discard the skin, which is packed with saturated fat.