Nutrition: Protein the new superfood?

Protein is pretty amazing stuff, it helps us build muscle, recover from exercise, carries messages through the blood, forms part of the immune system and countless other bodily functions. No wonder every one is talking about it, but how much do we really need to eat in a day?

 

Protein is pretty amazing stuff, it helps us build muscle, recover from exercise, carries messages through the blood, forms part of the immune system and countless other bodily functions. No wonder every one is talking about it, but how much do we really need to eat in a day?

For a female between 20 and 40 years old the recommended dietary intake is 46g per day, for pregnancy this increases to 60g per day. So to put this into real terms, 100g piece of steak, 2 eggs and ½ a cup of baked beans equates to 58g, just under the amount required for someone who is pregnant. Which isn’t really that much even if you are young and really active.

But what if you go the gym or exercise a lot, how much more do I need you ask? Surprisingly the answer is none, unless you are in the first two weeks of a new exercise regimen, then it goes up by a small amount but still less than if you were pregnant. But that’s not to say it’s not important, timing is everything, protein within two hours after exercise helps muscle to repair and recover, reducing those aches & pains and leaving you ready go again the next day.

If you consider how much you really need, that protein shake after your work might be a waste of money. After all, excess consumption of protein can lead to dehydration and increased losses of calcium through the urine. Protein still contributes calories to your daily energy intake and too much can lead to weight gain. Neither of which are desirable. A glass of milk or a small tub of yoghurt can provide the same benefit as a protein shake without the cost and potentially reduces your daily calories too.

Protein from plants is still protein, low in calories, good for the environment and great for your health. Legumes such as chick peas, black beans, green peas and lentils are great source of protein, around 15-26g in ½ a cup which is about ½ the recommended daily intake. Soy milk, almonds are broccoli also have a good amount of protein as well, note that many of these are also high fibre which is another contributor to good health.

While protein is an important part of our diet, the western diet is high in protein and a typical healthy diet contains more than enough for most, so think twice next time you reach for that protein shake.

 

Top tips

  1. Meat, eggs and dairy products are a readily available source of protein
  2. Don’t forget plant based proteins they are a cheap additional source of protein
  3. Try a yoghurt or glass of milk after a workout instead of a protein shake
  4. Remember you only need around 40-50g a day