Protein friend or Foe.....

Hello all and welcome to this week’s blog.

This week I wanted to talk about protein. Questions surrounding this essential macronutrient are very common from:

  • How much protein do I actually need?

  • I am a vegetarian / vegan will I be deficient in getting all the essential amino acids needed?

  • I am a female should I eat less?

In this blog I will cover

  • What is protein?

  • How much do you need and how much is too much?

  • The effects of diets specifically plant based only on protein intake?

  • Importance of protein intake especially in females

What is protein?

Protein is made up of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids which we have to obtain from our diet in order to prevent protein malnutrition, and there are typically 11 non-essential amino acids that we can synthesis ourselves. A complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids and these are found predominantly from animal products.

Protein is one of the major macronutrients and it is essential for a vast number of functions such as:

· It is the building blocks for muscle growth.

· They can serve as a fuel source ( there are 4 cals per gram of protein).

· They are used as precursors hormones.

· They are active in immune response.

· They also are essential to form blood cells.

How much do you need and how much is too much?

As a general rule of protein intake is based on age, weight, activity type and levels. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. 0.8 grams would be the minimum requirement for a sedentary person. If you are an active athlete then it can be seen that this number can increase up to 1.4 - 2.0 g/kg/day for physically active individuals.

There are quoted concerns that consuming too much is unhealthy and may result in strain on the kidneys leading to impaired renal function and an increased risk for osteoporosis. Fortunately, both of these concerns are unfounded. There is no substantive evidence that higher than the above protein intakes will have adverse effects in “healthy”, exercising individuals. If you have existing kidney issues or family history then due care should be taken.

The effects of diets specifically plant based only on protein intake?

You cannot dispute that plant based diets are increasing in popularity, I myself have tried it, but I do enjoy meat. A plant based diet is associated with many health benefits as it often contains foods that are higher in fiber, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, and many phytochemicals and they tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol.

However, plant based diets have fewer food options to obtain a complete protein as complete proteins are in abundance from animal based food. There are a few complete proteins in the plant-based category namely quinoa but because plant-based protein has lower digestibility than animal protein more larger quantities would need to be consumed

It is not impossible for plant-based dieters to get all the essential amino acids and nutrients needed to optimize health and performance. Like all things if you respond well to it, and can sustain it long term they why not. There are many top athletes toady that are plant based.

Importance of protein intake especially in females

As a female we all know its harder to make muscle than our male counterparts. But yet we shy away from food that contain protein the essential macronutrient needed alongside other hormones to build lean muscle. Female hormones play a very large role in the ability to build muscle. Varying amounts of estrogen and progesterone throughout the monthly cycle can have profound effect on muscle-cell turnover and protein synthesis. Estrogen turns down the anabolic or growing capacity of the muscle and progesterone speed up the catabolism or breakdown of muscle tissue, which is not ideal and makes it more difficult to access amino acids. This means that females have higher rates of muscle breakdown during hard efforts. When these hormones are high it makes building and maintaining muscle harder.

It is important to ensure that females keep protein intake high especially in leucine (the muscle-building amino acid) or branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine; three essential amino acids that compose approximately one-third of your muscle tissue). It would be recommended that these BCAA’s be taken before exercise and replaced within 30 minutes after exercise.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog.

Until Next Week

Stay Healthy


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