Basic Nutrition To Fuel Your Not-So-Basic Life Part 1: Protein

You work hard in life. Maybe you go to the gym, cycle, dance, play a sport, or are even just someone who’s constantly on the go, running from place to place. OR, maybe you just eat food! If you identify with any of these things, and you should, then read on and learn how you can fuel your day more efficiently and ultimately get better at what you do through understanding basic nutrition!

Grab some popcorn (it’s high in fiber), let’s begin.

Protein

The darling of nutrition. The golden boy of food! The crème dela crème of bodybuilding! Everyone loves protein and thinks there’s no such thing as too much. But, sorry, there is. More on that later. What is this amazing substance that is responsible for making people jacked and tan?

Functions

Well, protein is one of the three macronutrients that is primarily responsible for yes, building muscle, BUT protein is also responsible for growth, maintenance, and repair of all body tissues. That even includes bones, blood, and nervous tissue. Protein has so many different functions, I could not come close to listing what it does in totality. It would be the world’s longest blog post. So, I’ll list a few primary functions on top of what I already mentioned.

    • Helps with healing wounds quicker
    • Transports nutrients and starts many body processes via hormones (think insulin), chemical neurotransmitters (acetylcholine helps with generating muscle contractions), enzymes, and other messengers
    • MAKING GAINZZZZZZZ
    • Immune health-antibodies are a protein (Low protein diets can increase your risk of getting sick)
    • So much more!1

Also, a useful FYI about protein is that it promotes satiety, which means it helps you feel full. If you have ever eaten a bunch of meat, you get insanely full, and don’t want to eat anything else. So, if you’re looking for something to fill you up quick, protein is a good choice.

How much protein should I eat?

This has been a hotly debated topic since the dawn of man (okay, maybe not that long. But, people have been fighting about it forever). So what do you do?

Well, what I can tell you is that The International Society of Sports Nutrition, an accredited organization that promotes accurate and science-based information for the betterment of athletes and the greater society, has made an official statement regarding the matter.

Their statement reads: “it is the position of the International Society of Sport Nutrition that exercising individuals ingest protein ranging from 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day”2. What this means is that for every 1 kilogram of body weight (1kg=2.2lbs) This translates to about 0.6-0.9 grams per pound of body weight. For those who like to exercise, the recommendations extend further. Endurance athletes (running, swimming, etc.) can ingest an amount of protein that is on the lower spectrum and be fine, more intense activities like casual weightlifting can be in the middle of the range, while individuals performing strength and power exercises and movements (olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, rigorous resistance training, etc.) are advised to consume an amount of protein on the higher end of the range.

Now, if you don’t do any type of exercise, first off, DO IT, IT’S AMAZING AND THERE’S SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. Second, your protein requirements can fall on the lower end of that range and you should be fine. Even falling slightly below would be okay since there is not an increased demand for protein from exercise. If you do have a physically demanding job, however, I would personally advise to consume protein in the low-moderate range, as hours of light activity can accumulate.

So, what happens if I eat more protein than recommended? Well, first off, don’t be afraid that excess protein will damage your kidneys. Research shows that high protein diets do not harm your kidneys. Read the statement on protein from the ISSN that I cited earlier, and you can see there that high protein diets don’t lead to renal damage.

What it comes down to with higher than 1g protein/lb body weight is that it can be converted to fat and/or get removed from your body through urine. Basically, you’re peeing away money. Fill your diet with more veggies, whole grains, and fruit for the fiber to stay full!

Sources of Protein

There are many sources of protein available to omnivores and vegetarians. Protein that is derived from animals is going to be the best source of protein because it is know as a complete protein. Complete protein sources contain all of the different amino acids, which are the “building blocks” or components of protein. These combine together in infinite combinations to create all the different proteins found in your body. This is why it’s important to vary your protein sources, especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan.

Unfortunately, non-animal sources of protein such as legumes are not complete sources of protein. If you do not consume meat, it’s necessary to pair different sources of protein when you consume meals. Purdue University has a great short read with a few charts to help you know what to combine for complete protein meals here3. It also has a list of vegetarian protein sources in case you don’t know. FUN FACT: Eggs are a complete protein, so this is an excellent source for non-meat eaters.

I’ll write an article strictly for vegetarian/vegan recommendations in the future. Stay tuned :).

In summary, protein is an amazing macronutrient that helps us get bigger, stronger, keep us functioning normally, and, ultimately, help us get better. You don’t need to go overboard on the amount of protein you eat, regardless of what the huge dude at the gym says, unless you like peeing your money away. Let me know your questions about protein or comment with your favorite protein source, and how you like to prepare it. I’m always looking for new recipes :). Thanks for reading!

References

1The Science of Nutrition by Janice Thompson, Melinda Moore, Linda Vaughn

2https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-4-8

3https://www.four-h.purdue.edu/foods/Vegetarians.htm

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