When it comes to weight control and healthy eating, protein is frequently mentioned. So what exactly is protein, why do we need it, where do you find it and how much do you need? Everything you need to know about protein is right here.
What is protein?
As one of the 3 key nutrients, protein is primarily found in animal based foods including dairy, meat, eggs, fish as well as in smaller quantities in nuts, seeds and legumes. Unlike carbohydrate, the body requires a certain amount of protein each day to function optimally. Protein has many functions in the body including helping to make new cells, for muscle growth and repair, to build connective tissue including skin and bone, to carry oxygen around the body and to make the enzymes that digest food.
So how much protein do you need?
Adults need roughly 1g of good quality protein for every kilo of body weight. We base this on your healthy weight, and the average female will require a minimum of 50-70g of protein per day and a male 80-100g per day. Protein is not a one size fits all model – just because one person has been told they need 80g does not mean you do too, rather it is dependent on your height and weight so check with your doctor or dietitian if you are unsure about how much protein you require.
How do you get enough?
Choosing one protein rich food at each meal and snack will help to ensure that you are getting enough protein each day. Or if you are vegetarian or vegan, seeking out protein rich plant foods such as soy, wholegrains or legumes at each meal and snack will help to ensure you also get adequate protein each day. If you aim for 10-20g of protein per meal and 5-10g of protein per snack you will be on track to reach your daily protein targets.
Can you have too much protein?
Indeed you can – in the case of protein it still is a source of calories so you can have too much and more is not better. It is recommended that adults do not consume more than 2-3g of protein per kilogram for any extended period of time.
Why is protein so important for weight loss?
If you are trying to lose weight, protein is particularly important for two reasons. Firstly, when your calorie intake has been reduced, you too will be reducing your protein intake. Here you may find that you are eating less than the recommended 1g per kilogram, especially if you are consuming very few calories. The second reason that protein is such an important part of your weight loss journey is that consuming adequate protein will also ensure that you preserve as much muscle mass as possible. A low calorie and protein intake will naturally lead to some muscle loss, and the more of this we can reduce with an adequate protein intake, the better it is for your metabolism long term.
Have a look at our new Protein Plus range of meals to accelerate your daily protein requirements.