Pass the Protein!
The humble protein shake has become a staple in many nutritional plans with creative variations appearing in our local cafe menus and recipe books. But have you ever wondered why protein is such an important element of our diet? GoGoRace sheds some light on the benefits of protein and why you should be including it regularly in your diet.
What is protein?
Protein is one of three macronutrients the body requires for growth, energy and other bodily functions. Fats and carbohydrates form the other two essential macronutrients required by the body to function. Proteins are considered the ‘building blocks’ of the body and are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids. There are four calories (energy) per gram of protein consumed.
What are the benefits of protein?
Protein plays a key role in the regulation and maintenance of bodily functions. It is a major constituent of most cells and is essential for new tissue growth and repair. Enzymes for digestion, protection and immunity as well as hormones for body regulation all require proteins to function effectively. Protein benefits the body by:
– Reducing appetite and hunger levels
– Increasing muscle mass and strength
– Providing better bone health with less risk of osteoporosis and fractures
– Reducing cravings
– Boosting metabolism and increasing fat burning capacity
– Lowering blood pressure
– Speeding up recovery
How much protein is recommended?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend 15-25% of your dietary intake should come from protein, with 46g protein recommended per day for the average sedentary woman and 56g protein per day recommended for the average sedentary male*. However, there is a significant debate amongst experts regarding what an ‘optimal’ protein intake should be. Evidence suggests that this fairly modest protein recommendation is significantly less than what most average male and female adults are consuming on a daily basis.
Research indicates that the ‘right’ amount of protein for any one individual is dependent upon many factors such as activity levels, age, uncle mass, physique goals and current state of health. Recent studies suggest that a protein intake of around 30% of calories is optimal for weight loss, as it boosts the metabolic rate and causes a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake. It is also important to eat enough protein if you want to gain and/or maintain muscle, with an intake of 1.5 – 2.2g of protein macronutrient (not protein source) per kg of body weight recommended**.
What are some sources of protein?
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, eggs, nuts, legumes and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables. You can also supplement your protein intake through protein powder (which can be added to water, milk, yoghurt and baking) or protein bars.
* www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, Web. 17 May 2016.
**Kris Gunnars, BSc. “Protein Intake – How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day?”. Authority Nutrition. N.P., 2014. Web. 17 May 2016.