Protein And Athletic Performance
Protein has long been associated with athletic performance. Protein plays a key role in helping to repair and strengthen muscle tissue after exercise. Although protein is critical for building muscle, to maximise the benefits it should be considered in the context of the whole diet, which includes the right amount of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Optimum protein intake will depend on the type , duration and intensity of exercise, with more not always being better. A protein intake of 1.42.0 g per kg body weight a day is thought to be sufficient to meet the needs for most exercising individuals.7Athletes should aim to achieve protein intakes through consuming a balanced diet, with protein supplements being used for individuals who need to keep protein high but limit total calorie intake.
Can You Eat Too Much Protein
While a high protein diet certainly has plenty of benefits, a healthy diet is ultimately about balance. If you are thinking about increasing your protein intake, it’s important that you don’t overdo it. While some additional protein can help you build muscle and lose weight, too much protein can have adverse side effects.
Eating too much protein can lead to:
The recommended amount of protein changes from person to person depending on weight, height, and lifestyle factors. There are numerous online protein calculators that will help you get a better sense of how much protein you need.
What Are The 8 Types Of Protein
1) Hormonal Protein. Hormones are protein-based chemicals secreted by the cells of the endocrine glands. Usually transported through the blood, hormones act as chemical messengers that transmit signals from one cell to another. Each hormone affects certain cells in your body, known as target cells. Such cells have specific receptors on which the hormone attaches itself to transmit the signals. An example of a hormonal protein is insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas to regulate the levels of blood sugar in your body.
2) Enzymatic Protein. Enzymatic proteins accelerate metabolic processes in your cells, including liver functions, stomach digestion, blood clotting and converting glycogen to glucose. An example is digestive enzymes that break down food into simpler forms that your body can easily absorb.
3) Structural Protein. Also known as fibrous proteins, structural proteins are necessary components of your body. They include collagen, keratin and elastin. Collagen forms the connective framework of your muscles, bones, tendons, skin and cartilage. Keratin is the main structural component in hair, nails, teeth and skin.
4) Defensive Protein. Antibodies, or immunoglobulin, are a core part of your immune system, keeping diseases at bay. Antibodies are formed in the white blood cells and attack bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms, rendering them inactive.
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How Much Protein Do You Need
The recommended daily intake of protein is between 46-63 grams for most adults, with pregnant and lactating women needing up to 65 grams per day. The Daily Value for protein is set at 50 grams per day , which is an average that works for most people. Athletes or other people looking to build muscle mass may want to consume more protein.
High protein foods include lean chicken, lean pork, fish, lean beef, tofu, beans, lentils, low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese, seeds, nuts, and eggs.
Below is a list of healthy protein foods sorted by common serving size, use the protein nutrient ranking to sort by 100 gram or 200 calorie serving sizes. For more information, see the lists of vegetarian protein, high protein fruits, and high protein vegetables.
Why Is It Important To Choose A Variety Of Choices From The Protein Foods Group
Foods in the Protein Foods Group including meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, seeds, and soy products provide nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of your body. Many Americans meet the protein recommendations for meat, poultry, and eggs, but do not meet the recommendations for seafood or nuts, seeds, and soy products. Meeting the recommendations for these Protein Foods subgroups can help increase intake of important nutrients, including unsaturated fats, dietary fiber, and vitamin D and help to limit intake of sodium and saturated fats coming from processed meat and poultry.
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Eat Your Protein First
When eating a meal, eat the protein source first, especially before you get to the starches.
Protein increases the production of peptide YY , a gut hormone that makes you feel full and satisfied .
In addition, a high protein intake decreases levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and increases your metabolic rate after eating and during sleep .
Whats more, eating protein first can help keep your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising too high after a meal.
In one small study, people with type 2 diabetes were served identical meals on different days. Blood sugar and insulin rose significantly less when they consumed protein and vegetables before eating high carb foods, compared with when the order was reversed .
Eating protein first at meals can help you feel full and keep your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising too high.
Choose Leaner Slightly Larger Cuts Of Meat
Selecting leaner cuts of meat and increasing portion sizes slightly can significantly boost the protein content of your meal.
Whats more, your meal may even end up being lower in calories.
For example, compare the nutritional value of a 3-ounce serving of these two steaks (
Peanut butter can also boost the flavor and nutritional value of firm fruits like apples and pears, which are rich in fiber and antioxidants yet low in protein.
In fact, spreading 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on sliced fruit can boost the total protein content by 7 grams .
Peanut butter also works well with a wide range of other ingredients, including oatmeal, celery, whole wheat toast, or yogurt.
Adding peanut butter to your diet can boost your protein intake. It may also help decrease appetite, improve heart health, and lower blood sugar.
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Which Foods And Drinks Provide Protein
A lot of different foods and drinks provide protein. In the UK Governments healthy eating model the Eatwell Guide, foods that provide protein are found in the food group called Beans, pulses, eggs, fish, meat and other proteins. Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, are also good sources of protein.
We can also look at good food sources of protein based on whether they are from animals or plants. Below we look at different food sources of protein in more detail. Tables 1 and 2 show the protein content of some common foods.
Tables 1 and 2: Protein content of some common foods found in the diet
How Much Protein Should We Eat Every Day
EFSA has developed dietary reference values for protein. The DRVs for protein at different life stages are summarised in table 3. For an average adult, the recommendation is to consume at least 0.83 g of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day.1 In other words, a 70 kg adult should aim to eat at least 58 g of protein everyday day. This is the equivalent to the protein found in around 200 g of chicken breast or 240 grams of mixed nuts.
During periods of growth, such as childhood, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, protein requirements are relatively high. In addition, during old age, our protein to energy ratio begins to increase. This means we require the same amount of protein but less energy due to a decrease in metabolic rate and a more sedentary lifestyle.1
Table 3. Dietary reference values for life stages.1BW: body weight.
How Much Food From The Protein Foods Group Is Needed Daily
The amount of protein foods you need to eat depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. For women, the amount can also depend on whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Most Americans eat enough from the Protein Foods Group, but need to select leaner varieties of meat and poultry and increase the variety of protein foods selected, choosing meats less often. Find the right amount for you by getting your MyPlate Plan. For general recommendations by age, see the table below.
Foods And Beverages To Consume In Limited Quantities
The foods on this list can be included, but they shouldnt be the main focus if you want to lose weight. Although many of them are nutritious, their protein percentages arent high. Depending on what you like and the way you eat, you can enjoy them in small quantities on a frequent or even daily basis.
- Cheese: Cheese is delicious, low in carbs, and a great source of calcium. However, it doesnt provide a lot of protein per calorie. Additionally, some people find that eating cheese causes cravings for more.22If you follow a keto or low-carb diet, feel free to have a small portion daily, if you like.Protein percentage range: 39% to 20%
- Nuts: They provide crunch, flavor, and enjoyment at meals and when snacking. Unfortunately, they dont provide much nutrition per calorie.Also, once you start eating nuts, it can be difficult to stop. Eating too many nuts can increase your caloric intake, making weight loss more difficult.23Aim for no more than a small handful no matter what type of nut you choose. Also, portion them out and eat them in a small bowl rather than from the container.Protein percentage range: 18% to 4%
- Low-protein processed meats: Yes, theyre flavorful and convenient. But foods like bacon, sausage, and salami contain far less protein than other meats. Can you still lose weight if you include them in your diet? Absolutely. But try to choose the processed meats listed in the foods to eat section most of the time.Protein percentage range: 23% to 14%
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Peanut Butter And Banana Oatmeal
Protein Punch: 14 gramsYou’ll Need: Oats, salt, bananas, peanut butter, almonds, agave syrup
We love this oatmeal with peanut butter and banana recipe for its good-for-you ingredients. It makes a healthy morning meal you can have ready in minutes. Adding two tablespoons of peanut butter to this recipe gives this oatmeal bowl the protein boost you’re looking for in the morning.
“One tablespoon of peanut butter provides about 90-100 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat. Much of the fat is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind which also helps you feel full along with the protein,” says Amidor.
However, the quality of your peanut butter will also make a huge nutritional difference. Amidor recommends looking for the real deal made from peanuts and salt and skipping the reduced-fat varieties which tend to have the same calories or contain added sugars and artery-clogging saturated fats.
Get our recipe for Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal.
Protein Punch: 41 gramsYou’ll Need: Eggs, milk, chorizo, black beans, shredded taco cheese, avocado, salsa, burrito shells, hot sauce
Get our recipe for Chorizo Breakfast Burritos.
Protein Punch: 5 gramsYou’ll Need: Cashew butter, maple syrup, whole wheat bread, red apple, ground cinnamon
Get our recipe for Maple-Cashew-Apple Toast.
Protein Punch: 10 gramsYou’ll Need: Chia seeds, coconut milk, nonfat Greek yogurt, maple syrup, salt, fresh mango, coconut chips, macademia nuts
Get our recipe for Overnight Chia Pudding.
Protein Maintaining Muscle Mass As You Age
From around 50 years of age, humans begin to gradually lose skeletal muscle. This is known as sarcopenia and is common in older people. Loss of muscle mass is worsened by chronic illness, poor diet and inactivity.
Meeting the daily recommended protein intake may help you maintain muscle mass and strength. This is important for maintaining your ability to walk and reducing your risk of injury from falls.
To maintain muscle mass, its important for older people to eat protein effectively. This means consuming high-quality protein foods, such as lean meats.
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What Do Proteins Do For The Body
Our bodies are made up of thousands of different proteins, each with a specific function. They make up the structural components of our cells and tissues as well as many enzymes, hormones and the active proteins secreted from immune cells .
These body proteins are continually being repaired and replaced throughout our lives. This process requires a continuous supply of amino acids. Although some amino acids can be recycled from the breakdown of old body proteins, this process is imperfect. This means we must eat dietary protein to keep up with our bodys amino acid demand.
As protein is essential for cell and tissue growth, adequate intake of protein is particularly important during periods of rapid growth or increased demand, such as childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.1
Figure 1. Functions of proteins in the body.
High Protein Meal Prep Toolkit
Emphasizing more protein dense options can help make hitting your daily protein goals easier, however, it won’t solve all your nutrition needs.
Learning how to meal plan and prep your food choices is one of the best ways to take control over your diet and make sure you get plenty of protein and good nutrition regularly.
Learn exactly how to stick to your calorie and protein goals with this free meal prep toolkit for weight loss. An RD-written guide complete with macro meal planner, food lists, and expert advice to help you lose weight quickly.
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Research On Protein And Health
Available evidence indicates that its the source of protein , rather than the amount of protein, that likely makes a difference for our health. You can explore the research related to each disease in the tabs below, but heres the evidence-based takeaway: eating healthy protein sources like beans, nuts, fish, or poultry in place of red meat and processed meat can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death.
Research conducted at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health has found that eating even small amounts of red meatespecially processed red meaton a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any other cause. Conversely, replacing red and processed red meat with healthy protein sources such as beans, soy foods, nuts, fish, or poultry seems to reduce these risks. One of the reasons why plant sources of protein are related to lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to protein from red meat and dairy is because of the different types of fat in these protein packages. Plant-based protein sources are more unsaturated, which lowers LDL cholesterolan established risk factor for heart disease. Also, plant sources contain no cholesterol. Other factors are likely to contribute to the lower risk, but this is a key factor.
When it comes to cancer, once again, the seems to matter more than quantity.
Foods That Are Almost Pure Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that serves many functions in your body.
The recommended amount of protein is 0.37 grams per pound of body weight, or 0.8 grams per kilogram (
The simplest way to increase your protein intake is to eat more high protein foods.
That said, not all high protein foods are created equal. Some of them are extremely high in this nutrient, containing almost nothing but protein and water.
Here are 10 foods that are almost pure protein, comprising 80% of calories or more.
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High Protein Foods: In Summary
Protein is one of key macronutrients that our bodies need in order to function normally. By adding some additional protein to your diet, you can increase your muscle mass, improve your appetite levels, and support general muscle strength and health. By simply adding a few more high protein foods, such as chicken, salmon, or almonds, to your diet, you will probably begin to notice the benefits.
However, too much protein can also lead to some negative side effects. Try to always eat a balanced diet that includes all of the essential food groups. If you’re worried you’re not getting enough protein, or that you’re getting too much, we always recommend speaking to your doctor or nutritionist, so that you can create the perfect diet plan for your specific needs and goals.
Where Does All This Protein Go
While consuming sufficient protein is important, the truly important metric is not how much we consume, but how much of the protein our muscles actually absorb. Research shows that the average person can absorb about 10g of protein per hour, and maxes out at about 30g per meal.
There are certain things we can do to bump up absorption and make sure we get the most out of our protein intake.
1. Space out Meals
Intuitively, the first step you can take is to space out your meals and consume appx. 20-30g protein per meal over multiple meals, instead of eating a few meals of 40-50g protein, since your body will not be able to process that amount of protein at one time.
2. Try a Protein Complex
A protein complex is a combination of different protein types that have different digestion periods. For example, combine whey with casein allows the body to continuously process the protein over a longer period of time than with just whey alone.
3. Supplement with Digestive Enzymes and HMB
Another option is to increase the absorption rate so that your muscles utilize more of the protein you consume. Research shows that digestive enzymes like protease and papain help your body break down protein more efficiently to allow for easier absorption.
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Nutritional Value Of Protein
The nutritional value of a protein is measured by the quantity of essential amino acids it contains.
Different foods contain different amounts of essential amino acids. Generally:
- Animal products have all of the essential amino acids and are known as ‘complete’ protein .
- Soy products, quinoa and the seed of a leafy green called amaranth also have all of the essential amino acids.
- Plant proteins usually lack at least one of the essential amino acids and are considered ‘incomplete’ proteins.
People following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet need to choose a variety of protein sources from a combination of plant foods every day to make sure they get an adequate mix of essential amino acids. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as long as you eat a wide variety of foods, you can usually get the protein you need. For example, a meal containing cereals and legumes, such as baked beans on toast, provides all the essential amino acids found in a typical meat dish.