Protein - let's clarify this rarely talked about food group. Do we need to consume protein shakes and bars? Whether we are meat-eaters, vegetarians or vegans, how do we know if we are eating enough protein?
To answer the question of protein supplements we should consider how much we need, and whether we are already consuming it.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average individual should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for general health. For an adult under 64yrs, this is approximately 60g daily ( the NHS guidelines). Those doing resistance training would require slightly more.
What happens if you eat more or less protein than your body requires?
Why should we care how much protein we eat? Because excess protein is converted to fat, insufficient protein (long term) mean the body can't repair and build new cells and tissue. Our bodies are constantly recycling proteins, especially when we are doing resistance training (including weights and bodyweight training).
When Should I Consume My Protein?
According to the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine),
- "Exercising in an unfed state leads to an increase in protein loss making it more difficult for the body to both repair and build muscle. - Pre-exercise protein consumption helps increase lean muscle mass and simultaneously reduce fat mass by raising the energy consumption of the body whilst resting . Also, consuming protein prior to exercise may improve recovery and hypertrophy (increased muscle size).
- Protein supplementation after exercise may have a greater impact on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Studies have demonstrated that eating protein after resistance training stimulates muscle synthesis for up to three hours. Research actually suggests there may be an “anabolic window” such that protein intake within an hour of exercise has the greatest influence on resistance training adaptations."
What protein should I eat (and how do I check I'm eating the right amount)?
Eggs (1medium egg) 6g protein
Milk (244g cup) 8g protein
Soy milk (244g cup) 7g protein
Yoghurt (200g cup) 18g protein
Salmon (100g) 22g protein
Tuna (100g) 26g protein
Chicken (100g) 30g protein
Turkey (breast) 34g protein
Beef (average steak of 100g) 35g protein
Quinoa (one cup) 8g protein
Whey (100g) 80-90g protein (this is often taken as a powder supplement by weight lifters)
Beans (1 cup dried) 16g protein
Basically, if you are a 75kg adult male you could achieve your protein requirements with just 2 eggs for breakfast, 1 chicken breast for lunch, some yoghurt as a snack or after dinner. If you aren't sure how much you are eating there are great apps that easily record and add up your protein, carbs and fat, like MyNetDiary.
After exercise (preferably within one hour) 1egg, glass of milk or 1 cup of quinoa will give you the protein you need. It is possible to use a balanced diet to naturally provide the proteins you need, whether you eat a vegan, veggie or meat diet.
(Side note: Generally, naturally occurring animal proteins contain 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine. These proteins have been identified as providing optimal support of muscle adaptations with exercise training. In order to meet the recommended RDA a consumption of approximately 45 mg/kg/day of leucine and 22.5 mg/kg/day of isoleucine and valine is suggested.)