Protein is an important part of our diet and essential for good health. However, many people eat too little protein. In this blog post we look at what protein is, which foods contain protein and how you can ensure that you get enough of it every day.
Why is protein important?
Protein is found especially in animal products, like meat, fish and eggs but there are also many vegetables and non-animal foods that contain protein, like pseudograins and seeds. Protein consists of amino acids, which are vital to our health. They play a significant role in the metabolic processes in the body and are crucial for the repair and building of tissue, hormones, enzymes, antibodies, transport proteins and other important protein functions. If you don't get enough protein, which is often the case among vegetarians, vegans and those who train hard, you could have a disrupted production of enzymes and hormones. In addition, a shortage of protein in the diet could lead to the breakdown of structural protein, which can impair vital functions of the body.
The human body needs 20 different kinds of amino acids, and these can be divided into 12 non-essential amino acids (which the body can produce itself) and 8 essential amino acids (which the body cannot produce itself and therefore must come from diet). Most animal proteins contain all essential amino acids and that is also why they are called complete proteins.
Many non-animal foods also contain all essential amino acids, but usually only in much smaller amounts and may be proportionally insignificant, that is why these proteins are often called incomplete proteins. There are a few plant-based foods that are high in protein and these are amongst others, quinoa, hemp seed, buckwheat, blue-green algae (i.e. spirulina and chlorella). All amino acids in plant-based foods are of the same quality as those in animal-based amino acids, so they can be absorbed by the body as effectively.
How much protein do I need per day?
The amount of protein that you need per day depends not only on how much you move around and how much you exercise, but also on your body weight. You may therefore use the following guideline:
Amount of protein per kg of body weight per day
No or little movement
0,5 - 1g
Light training (cycling, fast walking, light weight training),
Moderate training (moderate weight training)
Intensive training (intensive weight training, professional athletes)
You need to ensure that you get enough protein from your diet every day because the body cannot produce protein as it is able to do with carbohydrates, sugars and fats.
When should I buy a protein powder?
If you are unable to obtain enough good protein from your meals (if you eat mostly vegan diets or do extreme sports or prefer not to eat animal protein - which is often full of hormones and antibiotics) then it would be wise to supplement your protein intake. Protein powders are ideal as you can easily and quickly make a protein shake that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
Many different kinds of protein powders are available. They can be divided into animal protein powders and plant-based protein powders as well as organic and non-organic protein powders. Especially those who are very mindful of their diet will often prefer an organic protein power, which is mainly made of hemp, brown rice or peas. Many animal-based powders can contain unhealthy additives, like artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, soya, gluten and preservatives, which some people may be sensitive to. Exceptions to this are quality brands like Superfoodies Brown Rice Protein. Plant-based protein powders also contain no allergens, don't cause digestive problems and are low on the glycemic index. It is a good idea to vary your plant-based protein powders because if you only use one kind, there is a possibility that your body can become sensitive to it. Therefore you may consider interchanging brown rice protein powder with, for example, hemp protein powder, or perhaps you could use a plant-based protein powder that is made from different kinds of plant-based protein sources.
Hoe often can I take protein powder?
Look on the packaging of your brand of protein powder to see how much protein it contains and then calculate how much protein powder per day you should be taking. You could divide the protein shakes over the course of the day but always drink them during a mealtime, so you may at most drink 3 shakes per day. Don't drink protein shakes at night, because eating and drinking before going to bed has been linked to obesity. It is in either case a good idea to begin the day with a protein shake, especially if you prefer not to start the day with meat or eggs. An additional benefit of protein shakes is that it helps you to feel full, keeps your blood sugar levels stable and provides lasting energy so that you are not tempted too much to eat unhealthy foods or snacks; it can therefore even help you to lose weight!