First a little information on what exactly protein is and how our bodies use this vital nutrient. Protein is an essential macro-nutrient our bodies cannot live without. It contains nitrogen, which is responsible for the growth and repair of every cell in your body. Protein is made up of twenty different amino acids, 9 of which our bodies cannot produce. So we need to get these 9 essential amino acids from the food we eat.
Why is Protein so important?
It serves to build strong bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It makes up the compounds our bodies use to produce biochemical reactions, known as enzymes; which control our hormones. It is found in our blood as hemoglobin, which transports oxygen all over our bodies. Hemoglobin is a part of the immune system in the form of antibodies that help protect our bodies from bacteria, viruses, and toxic substances.
How much protein is good for me?
That depends; don’t you just hate that answer? But it’s true; everyone’s needs are different. How active you are, your body composition, how hard you workout, do you have a desk job or are you a construction worker? There are so many factors that go into determining you unique needs.
The problem is that most people believe if a little is good then more must be better. Not true! Our bodies can only utilize a certain amount of protein at one time. Too much protein in one serving and you will need to store the excess. Now, want to take a guess at how it’s stored? As body fat. Yes that’s right, the molecules are broken down and then re-built, so to speak, as fat molecules to be stored away.
If you have too little protein then your body will not have the nutrients it needs for repair and replacement of cells. Your cells, hair, skin, nails, bone, organs, etc are constantly regenerating. If we don’t feed our body the amino acids it needs to keep this process going, it will find a way to do it; our bodies want to survive. Since we don’t store protein, the fibers of our muscles (amino acids) are broken down and used for repair.
Now image this typical scenario; you don’t eat all day because you’re busy and have no time. When you get home at night after a long hard day (with maybe some quick carbs and coffee) you are famished! You eat a large serving of a lean protein and have some vegetables with it, thinking this is great! But, as you just learned, your body can’t handle all the protein at once and stores half of it away as fat.
Get a little bit of protein at each meal, which could range from anywhere between 15 grams up to 30 grams. Most women will do well with 15 – 20 grams per meal, and men a little more since they typically are bigger and have more muscle mass. This will help to keep you lean, your metabolism up, and also help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day. You’ll also find you are not quite as ravenous when you get home at the end of the day. You may even get home a bit earlier because you were able to think that much clearer, and finish up a major project in record time.
What are some good protein sources?
Tofu, tempeh, high protein cereals, plant based protein powder, edamame, seitan, hemp seeds, nuts and seeds (also a fat serving!), beans and legumes also have high protein content but remember they are also a starch serving. Personally I prefer chickpeas and lentils. I am vegan, and do not recommend any animal products; meats, fish, dairy or eggs as your protein sources.
Start tracking what you eat each day and you’ll soon be able to figure out how much is the right amount for you. If you need assistance with learning what’s right for your body, you can check out my programs here: Work With Lisa or give me a call 888-222-1273