Protein: The Powerful Macronutrient
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning that we need quite a lot of it to function. The body requires protein for growth and upkeep, and it’s used for everything from hair and nails to bones, muscles and blood. But how much do we need? And where is the best place to get it from?
What is protein?
Protein is made up of amino acids that are linked by peptide bonds. They are broken back down into amino acids during digestion in order to be absorbed. There are 9 essential amino acids that can’t be synthesised by the body and therefore have to be obtained from our diet in order to survive.
How much do we need?
This is debatable and is so dependent on the individual. The requirements are higher for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and for children as they are growing and developing. People who are highly active like athletes, may need more to maintain muscle and for muscle repair. It is suggested that we have around 0.8-1.0g per kilogram of body weight. We need enough so that our body doesn’t have to use up the muscle already present in our bodies. It’s a good idea to try and get some in at each meal, which will keep energy and blood-sugar stable. Protein, however, can’t be stored by the body like fats can. Which is why we need to consume it every day.
It’s important to get your protein from a variety of sources. A complete protein is a food that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. Examples of complete proteins are meat, milk products, eggs, soy, fish and quinoa. Incomplete proteins like oats, rice, wheat, legumes, nuts and seeds are all great sources and when combined, give a good mix of amino acids. Think good old rice and beans! Legumes like lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas have a good concentration of amino acids. Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds are all great sources of plant-based proteins too.
Protein powders can also be a fantastic source of protein, given they’re made with wholesome ingredients. And they can be convenient if you’re not quite getting enough in your diet. I love this plant-based Complete Protein powder from Juice Plus+ the best. You can throw it into a smoothie or have it on its own with your milk of choice.
It’s all about balance
You’ll be well on the way to getting your recommended amount of protein each day if you are adding it to each meal and trying to get it from a variety of sources. We’ve just got to give our bodies what they need to thrive!