Protein seems like a miracle nutrient. It builds and repairs muscle, assists with weight loss and boosts immune function. Confusion surrounds whether you should be eating a steak or drinking a powder to consume it though. Here are some of my facts to help you whey up how best to take your protein.
A macronutrient like protein is crucial to optimal health. Excellent sources include fish, red meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, legumes, tofu and nuts. It’s also available in a variety of formulated supplement drinks, bars and powders. The type of protein is different in all these foods and this makes a big difference.
Protein is comprised of amino acids that have a unique profile to give protein it’s value. Protein with a high biological value (HBV) is best. Animal based protein such as dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish and isolated soy protein are considered HBV as they contain every essential amino acid. Plant-based proteins have low biological value (LBV) as they only contain some essential amino acids.
The average person should be able to source the protein they require from food. Those who are vegans or vegetarians or who do not consume dairy may have more difficulty meeting their needs. Aim for 50 grams of protein spread out over the day and focus on whole foods rather than supplements.
Consider your impact on the planet when you choose your source of protein. Insects are rich in protein and a number of essential amino acids. The digestibility of protein from insects is higher than plant proteins and only slightly lower than egg or beef protein. Products such as organic Leap Cricket Protein have the lowest carbon footprint of any protein sources available.
If you exercise then protein should make up about 15 to 25% of your daily kilojoules. Aim to eat 20 to 25 grams of HBV each meal. Anything in excess of this won’t provide further benefit. Protein eaten within one hour following exercise will prolong your protein synthesis response, assist muscle gain and minimise muscle breakdown.
Increase the HBV in your meals by adding fish, turkey, chicken or eggs. Add cheese to sandwiches and quinoa or lentils to your salad. Drink a glass of milk or grab nuts or Greek yoghurt as a snack. One chicken breast has 30 grams of protein while one 170 gram tub of yoghurt has 17 grams of protein.
Processed powders can make you feel bloated, windy and constipated. If you’re an endurance athlete or body builder that does require a supplement then pick one with a simple ingredient list. Skip the concentrated blends and stick to the recommended serving size.
Whey protein is best as it’s rapidly digested and contains leucine which is critical for protein synthesis. Whey protein isolate is 90% protein by weight with little carbohydrate and fat. Whey protein concentrate is 70 to 80% protein by weight with small amounts of sugar and fat. Whey protein hydrolysate has shorter amino acid chains and is more rapidly digested.
Add skim milk powder to milk and you achieve most of what many protein powders on the market do and save a whole load of money. The expensive ingredients such as soy, egg albumin and casein on products like Boomers or Pure Warrior are found in milk. Both red meat and milk have high quantities of leucine.
Protein is a natural wonder that can easily be obtained from our diet. It keeps us satisfied for longer, increases metabolism and stabilises our blood sugar and mood. It’s been marketed sensationally but before you open your wallet consider all the protein options out there.