Macronutrients: Proteins

Today’s topic is everyone’s favorite macronutrient – protein. It’s currently the most popular macronutrient and rightly so, protein is very important! Protein is a necessary part of your diet as it provides the body with amino acids, which are used to build muscles and other tissues. Here are the top 5 questions I am asked often about protein.

1. What is a protein?

Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids, of which only 9 are essential – meaning our bodies don’t produce these amino acids and we rely on the food we eat to provide them for us.

2. What is the difference between animal and plant-based proteins?

There are both plant and animal sources of proteins. All animal sources of protein are “complete protein sources”, meaning that they provide all 9 essential amino acids. There are only a few plant-based complete protein sources such as quinoa, buckwheat, and chickpeas. A common combination of plant-based proteins that can be eaten together to provide all 9 essential amino acids is rice and beans.

3. How much protein do I need?

Your protein needs vary depending on your size, sex, stage of life, and activity level. Therefore, it’s not a one size fits all recommendation. When you are growing, pregnant, breast feeding, training for a marathon or fitness event, or after the age of 40 years old are all examples of when you might have increased protein needs. However, if you are under the age of 40, athletic, and are NOT pregnant or breast feeding then a good rule of thumb is to consume 1.0 g of protein per kilogram per day. NOT all at once, see below.

4. Is more protein always better?

Your body can only adequately absorb and utilize so much protein at once. It has been shown that high intakes of protein in one sitting (+40 grams) are no more beneficial than the recommended 15-25 grams of protein at one time. What does 15-25 grams of protein look like? Two slices of whole wheat bread and two eggs provides just over 19 grams of protein.

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Avocado toast with two poached eggs is one of my go-to breakfasts. I add the avocado for flavor and fat. More about fats coming to the blog next week!

5. Do I recommend protein powder?

While manufactured protein sources often lack the other nutrients found in whole foods like meat, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, etc., if you eat a plant-based diet or would like to use protein powders in your post-workout meal here is what I recommend.

  • Find a protein powder that:
    • Contains 200 calories or less per serving.
    • NO TRANS or partially hydrogenated fats
    • The less sugar the better (preferably 5 g or less)
    • Contains 15-25 g protein per serving
    • Here is the protein powder I use!

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