Don’t Skimp on the Protein
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for our bodies. It’s used to build and repair muscle, organs, skin and blood cells. Protein provides our bodies with amino acids—the building blocks of life. Even if you’re not an athlete or very active, getting enough protein is crucial for your health.
It helps us out with pretty much every aspect of our lives, and there is a dramatic difference in quality of life between consuming enough for your needs and being deficient.
Protein is the building block of our bodies.
“Protein is the most important nutrient,” says Susan Kleiner MS RD CDN CSSD LDN FAND. “It’s essential in every cell of your body.”
Protein is the building block of our bodies and muscle tissue. It has a profound impact on our overal quality of life. It’s what makes up hair and nails, as well as skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments — all the things that keep us moving smoothly through life.
The only thing you can’t make from scratch are amino acids (the building blocks of protein). So, if you want to build strong bones or muscles, repair damaged tissue after an injury or disease, or just maintain a healthy immune system…you’ve got to eat more protein!
A short list of what it does for us includes:
- Protein is essential for growth and repair of all our cells.
- Protein is the building block for muscle, hair and nails.
- It helps with immune function, which can reduce the risk of colds and flu.
- Protein helps us feel full and satisfied, which can help with weight loss.
- It’s needed for hormone production (including insulin), so if you have diabetes or want to lower your blood sugar level naturally this should be a priority in your diet plan too!
How much should you consume?
So, how much do you need? The general recommendation is 0.8g of protein per kilogram (2lbs) body weight per day (so about 60 grams or more).
You can find the recommended daily intake for protein in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), and it varies depending on your age and physical activity level. However, there’s no need to memorize this information.
That is a rough estimate of our protein needs and the government organizations recommendations are based on bare minimum. Just like the BMI scale is aimed at generalities and doesn’t take into account lean vs fat mass, activity levels, and other things, their recommendations for protein intake are based on generalities. The protein guidelines they provide are aimed at making sure you aren’t in a deficiency. That’s the only goal of those numbers.
Instead, I personally recommend people eat 1g of protein per bodyweight pound per day up to a certain weight:
- Example 1: A 140-pound person should eat 140 grams of protein each day (1g/lb × 140 lb).
- Example 2: A 200-pound person should eat 200 grams of protein each day (1g/lb × 200 lb).
The reason I personally recommend 1g per pound is because it is a much simpler formula to do in your head. Just match your weight with your protein intake. Easy! Plus, if you shoot for 140g and only hit 110g for the day, you are still on par with the government recommendations.
Once you reach above a certain weight or fat percentage, you should instead swap to 1g per GOAL bodyweight.
Lean meats like chicken and fish, nuts, beans and soy-based foods are all good sources of protein.
Lean meats like chicken and fish, nuts, beans, lentils and soy-based foods are all good sources of protein.
Some even contain more than one type of amino acid. Animal based proteins are all considered ‘complete’ proteins due to having all the essential amino acids our bodies need, while plant based protein is considered ‘incomplete’ proteins because they are always lacking in at least one essential amino acid.
Some sources have a combination of different kinds of proteins in them so they’re especially good at providing slow-digesting proteins that keep you feeling full for longer periods of time while others digest a bit faster. Of course, protein is the longest digesting of all macronutrients regardless.
Protein is essential for life, but more so when you’re very active!
Protein is essential for life. Without protein, you can’t build muscle, repair tissues, have a strong immune system, or keep your hormones in balance.
If you want to be healthy and active, it’s important that you consume enough protein each day. If you are trying to build muscle, you might need to go even higher than 1g/lb. According to all the research I have read, you can safely go all the way up to about 1.5-2g per bodyweight/goal bodyweight pound without issue (barring kidney or other medical issues, or course).
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