Protein! It’s that infamous word that is getting so much attention these days, and we plan on shedding some light on it ourselves… It will be next week’s focus for Week #4 of our New Year’s Challenge.
Because there are so many contradicting views around this topic, we will keep it pretty simple.
Let’s start with what protein is and how our body uses it…
Protein is one of the three main nutrients in food that our body needs in order to keep our tissues and organs healthy. After water, it is the most plentiful substance in our body. Protein helps maintain, build, and replace certain tissues of the muscular (muscles), immune (antibodies), and digestive (enzymes) system.
It is a long molecule composed of many small units known as amino acids. Many of these amino acids are produced by our body, but there are 9 amino acids our body can NOT make itself. These amino acids are what we call “essential amino acids” (EAAs).
What are good complete protein sources with EAAs?
EAAs are found in the following foods: animal products (meats, fish, dairy, and eggs) and a two plant-based products (soy and quinoa).
Those who eat a plant-based diet have fewer options for finding complete protein foods. It’s super important that they have a large variety of foods within their diet in order to piece together the different amino acids. For instance, a three bean salad (chickpeas, green beans, and kidney beans) can be a good option because each bean/pea contains varied amino acids plus different vitamins and minerals. We also recommend to our clients who eat a plant-based diet to consider supplementing with an EAA or BCAA supplement in order to help their body’s acquire the recommended amount of complete amino acids within their day. (As a side note, we also do not recommend ‘soy’ as a staple food in our client’s diets due to it being a phytoestrogen, which can potentially increase estrogen levels.)
For those who eat both plants and animal products, we recommend you get a large variety of whole foods in your diet! Of course, get your doctor’s advice as well depending on your current health. I personally eat a large variety of plants and legumes plus leaner meats such as fish and poultry. (I also consume red meat and pork on occasion.)
How much protein should you consume?
This is such a PERSONAL question! This depends on so many factors… goals, weight, activity level, etc.
For our challenge, we will give you three different general options. Choose which one you want to do with your partner:
- Counting grams: If you are mostly sedentary, multiply your weight in lbs by .36. This is the minimum amount of protein you should consume. This is recommended by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics plus Precision Nutrition. (So, for instance, if you weigh 160lbs. You would do the math: 160 x .36 = 57.6; therefore about 58 grams of protein would be your daily minimum amount.)
If you are active, multiply your weight in lbs by .54. This is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. (For instance, if you weigh 160, you would do the math like this: 160 x .54 = 86.4; therefore, about 86 grams of protein would be your daily minimum amount.)
If you are counting grams for the challenge, remember to include all your food’s protein. Oats and nuts have protein too… not just meats!
- Portion Awareness: If you are not great with keeping up with grams, this option is a great one for you! Make sure that with every meal and snack you have a source of protein.
If you are female, about a palm size portion of meat for each meal is a good size. If you are male, maybe two palm-sized portions is good for you. If you are a plant-based eater, pay attention to your protein sources and make sure you have at least two different kinds per meal (i.e. beans and nuts) and good amount of them… like a handful!!
- EAA Supplementation: Maybe you do a great job getting in a variety of whole foods but aren’t confident with whether or not you’re eating enough complete proteins. Taking a daily EAA or BCAA supplement might be a great goal for you this week.
Whichever goal you choose, your body will thank you! Reach out if you need any advice or specific nutrition coaching!