Updated: Feb 5
What is protein?
Did you know that your organs, tissues, muscles and hormones (insulin and thyroid hormone) are all made from proteins? The protein we consume every day is used by our body to develop, grow and function properly.
Proteins actually are complex molecules comprised of #aminoacids and they are a primary component of our muscles, hair, nails skin, eyes and internal organs, especially the heart (muscle) and brain. So it’s fair to say that proteins are involved in just about every body function.
It’s important that you consume foods high in protein every day to prevent protein deficiency, which can wreak havoc on your body (and hormones). Besides cholesterol, amino acids are actually the main building blocks for our hormone production!
Why do you need it?
It keeps you lean by reducing appetite and hunger levels: when adding protein to your meal, it keeps you fuller longer and you have less hunger and craving for carbs/sweet foods. That’s because protein has a stabilizing effect on #bloodsugar.
Manage stress: high stress levels can lead to hypoglycemia or other blood sugar imbalances. Increasing protein intake—especially in the morning—can boost energy levels, reduce jitteriness, agitation and mood swings, improve your sleep quality, and sharpen your brain function.
Helps increase muscle mass and strength: not only do you feel fitter and stronger, but more muscle mass also equals burning more calories - this goes in combination with exercise of course!
Protein is essential for growth, forming hormones, providing structure, but also to establish communication between individual cells and entire organ systems.
Support our immune system: our immunesystem needs proteins to be able to form antibodies to fight infections.
Break down fat: Our gallbladder needs taurine (an essential amino acid) to produce bile which is used to break down fatty acids. People who are deficient have problems digesting fats and deal with heart burn or other digestive disorders
Boost metabolism and increase fat burning - regulate our metabolism and almost every function in the body
Helps body repair: proteins are forming the main building blocks of your tissues and organs. When you get injured, you need these amino acids to rebuild.
Helps you stay fit as you age : eating more protein (and keep on moving) is one of the best ways to reduce age-related muscle deterioration
When lacking protein or some of the amino acids, it can affect our sleep, cause anxiety, cardiovascular disease, depression, alcohol and sugar cravings, fatigue, weight gain…
What are good sources of protein ?
Wild caught fish, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised chicken or eggs, organic & raw cheese & dairy products (if tolerated), quinoa, hemp, chickpeas, lentils, nuts such as almonds etc.
Is there a difference between plant-based and animal protein?
Animal protein is (with exception of hemp and quinoa) the only complete protein source for our bodies. That's why most vegetarian protein sources must be consumed in combination so that the body can convert them. If we look at Latin American or Asian cultures for instance, rice is always served with beans or lentils or chick peas (hummus) and whole wheat (Lebanese flat bread). Goes without saying that the plant-based protein sources don't contain as much protein as animal sources and also always contain carbs and anti-nutrients like phytic acid which cause digestive distress and bind to important minerals like zinc. So they are depleting us of minerals. In order to get as much protein from chickpeas than a small piece of meat, you'd need to consume about 2 cups of chickpeas (approx 500g)!
Also, protein cannot be adequately used without dietary fats, which is why in nature, they occur together: egg yolk and white, meat, fish…
A high protein and low fat diet can cause many problems including too rapid growth and depletion of vitamin A and D reserves
Usable Vitamin B12 is ONLY found in animal products. Furthermore, it can only be absorbed with special proteins in the stomach that allows it to be decomposed and assimilated. Vegetarian sources of B12 cannot be absorbed.
So in a nutshell: if you want to increase your protein but opt for plant-based sources, it is possible, but much more difficult for the body to assimilate and obtain the same result. For vegetarians I would highly recommend to at least eat eggs several times a week and if possible consume the egg yolk liquid to preserve the nutrients.
So how much protein do you need?
As a general rule, between 20 and 35 % of your calories should be from protein each day. (These are general statements that might not apply for everyone.) You could also count approximately 1.5x your body weight. If you weigh 60kg, you'd need to consume 90g of protein per day.
Athletes, people doing extreme training or people with metabolic problems probably need 30–35 % .People training at moderate to vigorous intensity 25–30 % and
20–25 % for the elderly, chronically ill, and people under a lot of stress.
In any case, you should experiment with your intake and see what works for your body.
Let’s look at an example to give you a better feeling for the quantities:
Breakfast: 2 eggs and vegetables ~ 12 g of protein.
Lunch: Salad with 80-150g of grilled chicken breast and tamari almonds ~ 20–50 g of protein. (100g chicken breast have approx 20g protein)
Dinner: 250-500g beef, sweet potato, steamed broccoli ~ 60–120 g of protein
This adds up to between 92 and 152 grams of protein, or 16–27 percent of calories on a 2,200 calorie diet.
Although I like eating fish, eggs & meat, I for sure have trouble eating as much protein.
How about you?