Let’s talk about protein. Why is protein important? What are the benefits of protein? How much do you need? What foods have protein and what is the best food source?
All great questions that we will be answering today.
Protein is incredibly important and is essential for your body to function properly. Along with this, it has plenty of health benefits past basic functioning, and is found in a variety of foods.
What protein does in body
First let’s discuss the role protein plays in your body’s everyday functioning. Protein serves a variety of functions, including:
- Building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood
- Building blocks for enzymes, hormones and vitamins
- One of the three nutrients that provide calories
Protein is essential when it comes to “building”. Think of it as the bricks in a building. You can’t build a house with just a blueprint! You need the raw materials to build the house, and that is what it provides.
Other benefits of protein
While protein is essential to ensure your body is functioning properly, it also has other health benefits that contribute to your overall well being.
These benefits actually come from the food sources of protein. Particularly three different vitamins and minerals:
- B vitamins: help to build tissue and form red blood cells
- Magnesium: help to build bones and support muscle function
- Zinc: help to support immune systems
Along with this, seafood, which is rich in protein, has the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which can help reduce risk for heart disease.
How much protein you need
Now that you know the benefits, let’s discuss how much you need per day!
First, it’s important to note that everyone will have different needs based on age, gender, activity level, etc. This being said, I will share some general recommendations to help you get started:
- Females, age 14-70+: 46 grams per day
- Males, age 14-18: 52 grams per day
- Males, age 19-70+: 56 grams per day
You may be thinking that this is rather low, and I would agree! If you are active, and especially if you weight train, you will likely need more protein per day.
For athletes, about 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram per day is recommended. This would be about 81 to 136 grams per day for a 150 lb person.
For those who are in a caloric deficit for fat loss, it could be beneficial to increase protein to 2.0 grams per kilogram per day or higher to prevent muscle loss.
If you don’t want to track how many grams you are eating per day, you can also track servings per day. For those eating around 2000 calories per day, it is recommended you get 5 ½ servings of protein per day. 1 serving = 1 oz of meat, nuts, seeds or soy products.
- Lean beef, ham, lamb or pork
- Chicken or turkey
- Fish, shellfish and canned fish
- Nuts, seeds or nut butter
- Tofu or tempeh
It’s also important to consider serving size. One serving is about 1 oz of meat, 1 egg, ½ oz of nuts, 1 tbsp nut butter, ¼ cup cooked beans, 2 oz of tofu or 6 tbsp of hummus.
Amino acids (essential, non essential, conditional)
Finally, let’s discuss amino acids, which are the molecules that form together to make proteins. There are three categories of amino acids:
Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body, so we need to get these through the foods we eat.
Nonessential amino acids can be made by the body, so we do not need to get these amino acids through the food we eat, though foods we eat may contain them.
Conditional amino acids are usually nonessential, but may become essential during times of illness or stress.
So why is protein important? Well, it serves as the building blocks to just about everything your body needs. This is why it’s so important to seek out protein rich foods in your diet.
Need some help with your nutrition? Click this link to learn more about working with me one on one or in a small group setting. Have a wonderful day!