Protein isn’t just for the gym junkies!
When we hear the word ‘protein’, most people associate it with gym junkies. While protein is responsible for building and repairing muscle, it also contains the essential enzymes and hormones you need to feel healthy inside and out. Protein contributes to the health of your blood and bones, and ensures your hair looks luscious, your fingernails are strong and your skin glows. It’s an important component for every cell in your body, and one that helps you function at your highest capacity.
The benefits don’t end there. Protein helps keep you full between meals. So, if you’re hungry between meals and you’re always searching for snacks, consider adding more protein to your meals.
See, there are loads of reason why protein isn’t just for the gym junkies!
How much protein should you consume for general health?
On average, women need around 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, if you weigh 65 kilograms, you want to eat 45-50 grams of protein each day. Generally, men need a little more (approximately 0.85 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight) and, if your goal is muscle gain, aim for 2 grams of protein per kilogram. Remember, you don’t have to eat it all in one go and, in fact, I recommend staggering your consumption throughout the day.
When you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your muscles can deteriorate, you’ll feel more hungry and your hair and nails will become brittle and weak. People with severe protein deficiencies can experience more complicated health challenges.
Unless you’re serious about gaining muscle, protein powder probably isn’t necessary. If you’re concerned you’re not consuming enough, seek advice from a certified dietitian, naturopath or nutritionist.
What type of protein should you consume?
Protein is found in animal and plant-based foods. Neither source is better than the other and, with a bit of planning, both are easy to incorporate into your diet. To give you an idea of how much protein you can expect to get from some of the most common foods:
- 100g chicken breast = 25-30g
- 85g turkey = 26g
- 100g cheddar cheese = 25g
- 100g lean beef = 20g
- 100g tempeh = 20g
- 85g tofu = 15g
- two boiled eggs = 13g
- ½ cup lentils = 9g
- 2 tbsp peanut butter = 7g
Remember, variety is the spice of life; try to include a variety of sources in your diet.
Here at Vitalita HQ, we eat a plant-based diet. We’re not massive fans of tofu (bleurgh….too squidgy) but tempeh, its older, more sophisticated cousin, has become a staple source of protein in our household. The fermentation process gives it a higher content of protein than tofu plus it’s packed full of dietary fibre and vitamins. It’s also great for gut health. With a firm texture and earthy flavour which grows stronger as it ages, tempeh can be marinated and cooked just like meat.
Do yourself a favour. Steer clear of the pasteurised tempeh sold in the large supermarket chains – it’s produced in mass quantities, laden with stabilisers and additives, and tastes dreadful. Try your local health food or whole foods store for locally-made varieties. Totally Tempeh, for example, is made here in Brisbane every Friday from biodynamic soybeans grown in Northern NSW.
If your goal is to build muscle, look for a natural protein powerful that contains only 100% pure protein, without additives or flavouring. I currently use Bulk Nutrients vegan powder made from pea and brown rice.
Essential and non-essential proteins
The other thing to keep in mind when it comes to protein and meal planning, are amino acids. Proteins are made of amino acids – essential and non-essential. Unlike non-essential amino acids, the nine essential amino acids are not produced naturally by the body and have to be obtained through the foods we eat. Ensure your body is getting these essential amino acids by eating food such as:
- red and white meat
- dairy, including eggs
- a variety of nuts and seeds
- beans and legumes
- some fruits and vegetables
- certain superfoods such as spirulina
Incorporating adequate, high-quality protein into your diet can seem challenging but it needn’t be.
To make it easier:
- plan your meals.
- print out a list of protein sources and keep it on your fridge so you can make good choices come meal time.
- keep a digital or hard-copy collection of high protein recipes you love. These can be your ‘go-to’ recipes when you’re stumped for ideas!
- stock up on high-protein snacks such as nuts, seeds and bliss balls made with tahini or nut butter.