I think by this stage almost everyone knows that they ‘need’ protein, but in my lectures and workshops I still get questions like, “why do we need protein?”, “but won’t protein make me bulky?”, or, “won’t eating too much protein give me big muscles?”. While most of us know that we do need to be eating ‘enough’ protein, less know how much ‘enough’ is and why it’s important!
What is Protein?
Protein quite simply is the building block of most of the structures in the body and is consequently the name given to groupings of amino acids. Amino acids are used to create enzymes, muscle tissue, bone matrix and many other structural components of the body. All cells require protein. Quick Fact: Over 98% of ALL the cells in your body are replaced every year!
Why do we need Protein?
It helps us to remain lean! Protein has a higher ‘thermic effect of feeding’ (TEF) rating than either carbohydrates or fat. This means that when a higher proportion of your diet is protein your metabolic rate (and consequently fat loss) is going to be higher. This helps to give us the lean, fit-looking physique that many desire (but not ‘bulky’!) whilst also improving metabolic rate.
Improved Alertness and Focus
Amino acids supply the raw material for the excitatory neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. When we do not have enough of these amino acids we are more likely to suffer mental fatigue and physical fatigue.
Bone Structure and Health
Protein provides the matrix for bone and connective tissue. Ample protein helps to provide the structure for healthy bones!
How Much do we Need?
Individuals should measure their activity level when calculating their recommend daily allowance (RDA) of protein. The amount varies by looking at the protein taken in, compared with the amount excreted. It is approximately 0.8 grams per kilo of body-weight.
What the RDA Doesn’t Take into Account
RDA and DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes) are ‘necessary’ amounts for baseline health. In other words – survival. But the optimal amounts we need in order to thrive may be much different!
In general, up to 3 grams per kg body-weight per day (over 3 x the RDA) demonstrated to increase lean body mass, reduce fat mass and improve performance.
Most people will do well to get at least the RDA level with additional protein if and when able but overall quantity should be less important though, than eating good quality protein consistently.
The key ‘take home’ point is to eat quality protein at every meal.
Examples of Good, Clean Green Plant-Based Sources:
- Sprouted lentils, chickpeas or mung beans
- Nuts or seeds (almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds)
- Tempeh or other fermented protein foods.
One 25g serving of Clean Lean Protein provides 22g of high-quality protein.