All About Protein : What, When & How Much?

What is protein?

Proteins are the building blocks of life, they are essential for the maintenance, repair and regeneration of body tissues and muscle. They are used for body organs, hair and skin. When broken down into amino acids, they are used as co-enzymes, hormones, immune response, cellular repair and other molecules essential for life.

Why do we need protein?

Proteins are made of small compounds called amino acids. There are hundreds of amino acids found in nature, while the human body only uses 20 of them.
The body can produce all but nine of the amino acids it requires, which are classified as essential amino acids and need to be replenished through the foods we consume. In general, animal proteins like meat, dairy, and eggs contain all the essential amino acids, while plant-based proteins from foods like beans, grains, nuts, and soy are rich in some amino acids but may lack others. The key to a well-balanced diet is dietary variety of foods to make sure we receive all the nutrients we require.

How much protein do we need?

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day. The RDA is the minimum amount of protein needed for meeting nutritional requirements, not the maximum.
However, this amount depends on the person’s body size and how active they are. A tall and well built man who strength trains five times a week can absorb and utilize more protein than an average height female who does not exercise at all.
Endurance athletes may need from 1.0 to 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight, depending on the intensity of exercise.
Recommendations for strength training or power athletes range from 1.6 to 2.0 g per kg of body weight.
However, if you’re carrying a lot of body fat, it would be a good idea to use your ‘lean mass’ or ‘goal weight’ to calculate the amount of protein you require.

High protein food sources –

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following amounts of protein can be found in common sources of food:
• 100 gram of chicken contains 23 g
• 100 gram of ground beef contains 21 g
• 1 cup of milk contains 9 g
• 1 egg contains 6 g
• 1 cup of black beans contains 15 g
• 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains 8 g
• Half a block of tofu contains 18 g
Beans, chickpeas, quinoa, lentils, tofu, and low-fat organic dairy products are also good sources of protein. A diet that uses these at least sometimes instead of meat, especially red meat, is less likely to lead to weight gain and other health problems.

What are protein powders?

Protein powders are dietary supplements that contain a high percentage of protein, in some cases along with other added nutrients, vitamins & minerals etc.
There are many different protein powders available on the market today, each derived from a variety of different sources such as : Whey(Milk), Pea, Hemp, Rice, Soy etc.

Which protein powder is best for you?

WHEY Protein – One of the most commonly used fast-digesting proteins on the market. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is easily digested (if you are not lactose intolerant). It helps boost energy and can reduce stress levels.
Casein – Slow release milk protein has a slightly thicker, creamier texture, prevents protein breakdown.
Pea Protein – 100% plant based, highly digestible, non bloating vegan protein source, contains BCAAs ( Branched chain amino acids ).
Rice Protein – Highly digestible, hypoallergenic protein source.
Hemp protein – 100 percent plant-based, good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Soy protein (if not genetically modified) – has many great nutritional benefits, unfortunately, over 93% of soy nowadays is genetically modified.

When is the best time for a protein shake?

There is no set time when you should drink a protein shake. When it comes to weight loss, the main issue is the feeling of hunger when adhering to a low calorie or low carb diet and how the feeling of hunger leads to unhealthy snacking. A protein shake is the ideal alternative to suppress your hunger and stop you from turning to unhealthy alternatives to satisfy your hunger.
You can use the protein shake in the gaps between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner to prevent unhealthy snacking and help control binge eating, which is one of the main causes of fat gain.
You can add some protein powder to your favourite morning smoothie with a combination of your favourite fruits, or add it to your morning oats for added nutrients and protein value.
It is also a good idea to consume a protein shake post-workout to begin your recovery process and satisfy your hunger. If you’re working out with the goal of weight loss, your hard work will count for nothing if you top it up with a high calorie unhealthy meal after exercising, a protein shake is a great on-the-go alternative, especially for replenishing essential amino acids post workout and assisting recovery.

Protein deficiency and precautions –

A protein deficiency can be fatal. Early signs may include swelling in the legs and possibly the face, due to edema, or fluid retention. Other symptoms are a pot belly, fatigue, dry brittle hair and cracked nails. You may experience lack of growth, loss of muscle mass, reduced immunity and respiratory problems.
Those most at risk of a protein deficiency mostly include people who do not eat properly, for example, due to a poorly managed weight loss diet or an eating disorder. At the same time, consuming more than 2.5 g of protein per kg of body weight may lead to negative and adverse effects.
Consuming too much protein can be extremely taxing on our liver and kidneys.. One of the biggest misconceptions today, when it comes to diets, especially with the current craze for high-protein diets, is where to draw the line between what our body actually requires for healthy function and in some cases weight loss and when does it become simply too much. At times we may struggle to lose weight due to misguidance regarding the amount of food we actually require and end up overeating, at times we may see certain results on the surface but down the line discover we are struggling to maintain the results or in some cases struggle with organ disfunction due to inability to digest high quantities of food.

Unlike fats and carbohydrates, protein is the only macronutrient to contain the all important NITROGEN atom, which helps in promoting a positive nitrogen balance. When the body is in a positive nitrogen balance while adhering to a low calorie diet, it is more likely to turn to fat for fuel as opposed to breaking down ( catabolising ) muscle for fuel.

Protein is a key macronutrient for developing and maintaining a toned and strong figure. In order to maintain a positive nitrogen balance and ward off muscle catabolism it is important to consume protein every 3-4 hours.