Protein – Food vs Supplementation
If you haven’t noticed protein is added to everything on the shelves at the moment. It’s becoming a big buzz word in the food industry and is seen to be a healthy go to choice to munch on something high in protein. This is just a simple round up of some of the facts, so you know what to eat, how much to eat and whether it’s worth your money in all these new supplements and foods with it added.
Why is it important?
Protein is a macronutrient made up of 20 amino acids (AA), 8 of which are essential (unable to be synthesised by the body) and 12 that can be made by the body. You require a balance of all of these and more importantly the 8 essential AAs. Proteins are important for growth & repair tissue, used in key functional elements of the body like enzymes, hormones, and used within the immune system. Proteins can also be used as an energy source if required. Protein has been jumped on by the food industry in its marketing campaigns as it helps to reduce the glycemic load of the other foods its added to/eaten with as well as releasing hormones which may suppress the appetite, like Peptide YY. So do we need all of this added protein to normal foods or can we get it from our normal diet?
Sources of protein
The best sources of protein are the ones which are natural and mixed in variety. They are graded on an arbitrary scale of 0-100 with 100 being the best closely matched AA balance of that the body requires.
Meat offers a good source of protein however often comes with higher saturated fats & cholesterol. E.g. red meats. Chicken and turkey are often seen as great sources. Also, fish is a great source with the added benefits of omega 3 & 6 essential oils.
However, eating meat isn’t the only option. Veg, fruit, pulses, lentils, cereals all have plenty of protein in them to offer. The top 10 veg are below:
- Brussel sprouts
The main thing to remember is to have a variety of sources and not rely on one. If you are vegan or vegetarian that’s not a problem, it just means a bit more time in investigating new recipes with new ingredients. Making sure you have sources of plant-based protein in each meal/ snack.
How much Protein do we need?
This all depends on what your goals are. For the general population the recommended daily intake is 0.75 g per kg body weight per day. For a 75kg male = 56g of protein. However, the below table gives you an idea of what you require in g/kg body weight/day if you are training for specific events or goals:
|Type of athlete||Daily protein requirements per kg body weight (g)|
|Endurance athlete -moderate to heavy training||1.2-1.4|
|Strength and power athlete||1.4-1.8|
|Athlete on fat- loss program||1.6-2|
|Athlete on weight-gain program||1.8-2|
Its advised to increase protein intake by 0.2 g/kg body weight/day if you are reducing your kcal to retain muscle mass and not to lose it in fueling the body. So, for a non-athlete reducing kcals it would be 0.95g/kg body weight/day.
There has also been research showing the body can’t utilize any more than 2g/kg of body weight /day and therefore if you are consuming more than that you are wasting your money and urinating it down the toilet. Long term studies haven’t been done yet to see if it has an impact on the kidneys by filtering and excreting this excess protein but short term studies suggest it isn’t harmful.
Are you wasting your money on these supplements & new products with added protein? – No not necessarily. Just depends on how much you are requiring
- Convenience – as much as I have the philosophy of eating a balance diet and making an effort to eat as much whole food as possible, sometimes in a busy day it can be quicker and easier to grab a protein shake. Normally much easier to stomach rather than a full-blown meal pre or post work out, and much quicker. However not advised all the time.
- Muscle mass- if an individual has a large mass and is trying to put on weight they may need to consume more protein that comfortably possible. For example, a 120kg male may need 240g protein if looking to gain mass. That would be 1200g of chicken breast a day (20g of protein for every 100g of meat). This is where adding a shake could be beneficial.
- Can aid recovery and update of carbohydrate post exercise, when it is hard to get on solid foods after intense exercise it could be a faster, easier option to aid in recovery.
If you chose to have supplements or high protein additive alternatives…..
Things to remember about supplementation:
- You don’t hear people being diagnosed as protein deficient! That must say something in itself, ask yourself, is it really necessary and/or am I just being lazy and ignoring a good healthy balanced diet.
- Track your marcos – see what you are intaking at the moment, don’t just assume you require more protein. Know what and how much you are putting in and energy your expending from the body.
- Do your research! – read up what is in the supplements and understand what you are putting in your body, research has shown a large variation in the quality of supplements some with harmful ingredients.
- Remember a whole and balanced diet is better- it will have far more vitamins and minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, fats and potentially keeping you fuller for longer than shakes or supplements/ high protein additives to normal foods.
- Think of supplements as a supplement and not as a substitute.