The first thing that comes to mind when people think of the word “diet” tends to be that they need a high protein diet. However, that isn’t necessarily true. While a high protein diet can be beneficial to us, it can also become a bad thing if taken in excess. When we consume the appropriate amount of protein, it helps allow our muscles to recover better, helps rebuild tissues and hormones, helps strengthen our immune system, as well as aiding in keeping us fuller for longer bouts of time. Conversely, if we eat too much protein, although it is something that is rather difficult to do, our bodies won’t store the protein for later use or for extra recovery, it will instead just get stored as fat like the other macros.
A big question that most people have when it comes to getting enough protein in their diets is whether they should consume their protein in the foods they eat, or consume it in protein powder. The answer to this is pretty simple. While it’s more beneficial to us to consume our protein in whole foods since we get more added nutrients along with the protein, consuming it in powder form can also be beneficial to us. Consuming protein powder is a good option, either for when you are on the go or for when you don’t have the time to cook food. However, we don’t want to solely rely only on protein powder to help us reach our numbers for the day.
In addition to taking protein powder as a way to reach our macro goals for the day, there are also several other options of foods that we can eat to help us reach our macro numbers. Some animal-based protein options include: lean cuts of pork, fish, seafood, chicken, turkey, eggs, greek yogurt or cottage cheese, and beef. In addition to the wide variety of animal proteins, there is also a wide variety of plant-based proteins. Some of these include: tofu, beans, legumes, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, potatoes, and dark-colored leafy green vegetables.
Just like there is no “best diet”, there is also no single “best protein”. Proteins are made from the building blocks of amino acids, and that is how we divide up proteins. They are broken down into three general categories: non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids, and conditionally essential amino acids. The non-essential amino acids are the ones that we make in our body, which means we don’t need to consume them in our diets. Meanwhile, the essential amino acids are the ones that we can’t make ourselves and therefore have to be eaten in our diet. Finally, conditionally essential amino acids are one that we can make ourselves, but not always effectively. Just like with other macros, our bodies thrive best on a mix of amino acids. In particular, our body needs a range of the essential amino acids. This balance is one that comes naturally to us if we choose a wide selection of whole, less-processed foods.
When it comes to determining the amount of protein that we need to consume in a given day, all we need to do is some simple math. Generally for adults, about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body mass is sufficient enough to cover your basic protein requirements. However, if you find yourself in the gym often, or find yourself constantly hungry day after day, try and bump your protein intake up to 1.0 g of protein per kg of your body mass. These numbers usually come out with consuming about 3-4 oz of a cooked high protein food per meal. To easily determine this amount, use the palm of your hand as a guide. For women, this will be equivalent to one palm-size portion per meal and for men it will be equivalent to two palm-sized portions per meal.
Protein is a macronutrient that can be very beneficial to helping our bodies repair themselves, but is also something that can cause possible weight gain if taken in excess. Even though taking protein powder can be a good substitute for us when we are on the go, it’s not something that we want to heavily rely on as our main source of protein. We want to try and get most of our protein from whole food sources. Also, making sure that you are consuming a variety of proteins every day will help your body run at its full potential. Finally, calculating how much protein you need can be done easily with some simple math and can help you be sure you’re getting the appropriate amount of protein each day.
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