So why is protein so important? It’s needed not just for muscle tissue but for your hormones, immune system and enzymes that start biochemical reactions e.g. they help breakdown foods so you are absorbing all of your nutrients. It is also needed by the body for carrying vital substances such as haemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your blood.
How much protein do we need?
The amount of protein that you need depends on your age, weight, gender and activity levels. As a general rule the European Food Safety Authority state that 0.83g per kg of adult body weight is enough to support normal body processes.
So on a practical level this means that the average man requires around 68g of protein a day and the average woman needs around 52g a day.
There are times in your life when you may need more protein e.g. during ill health, trauma, during childhood, pregnancy and breastfeeding, sports. If you do regular strenuous exercise such as resistance training or cardiovascular exercise, protein requirements can be around 1.2-1.6g per kg of bodyweight per day. So if you are 9 stone 4 pounds (60kg) you would need approx 84 grams of protein per day (based on 1.4g/kg).
However something to watch out for is over dosing on protein! This is becoming a trend at the moment especially with young people taking in too much protein in the form of protein powders and protein milks. Too much protein is as bad as not enough. When protein is broken down it leaves substances such as ammonia, which the liver and kidneys have to process and excrete. Too much protein puts excess pressure on the liver and kidneys and can increase the probability of forming kidney stones. It can also lead to an increase in calcium excretion due to acidic amino acid breakdown. The calcium may then get lodged in joints and I’ve seen a few young people complain of aching joints, so this may be down to having too much protein and not enough magnesium rich foods like wholegrains and green vegetables.
Low protein diets
If you are not having enough protein in your diet or have problems digesting and absorbing protein, the body may start to show signs and symptoms such as – poor hair quality (hair may become brittle thin and fall out), dry, scaly skin and flaking nails, frequent colds and infections. If you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet this is something to watch out for. To find out more about protein in foods that are not meat based, check out this link to my facebook and see the post from 24/03/16 and the list below.
Getting the balance right
The key to ensuring a good protein intake is all about quality and portion size. Protein rich foods should be around 150 – 200g per portion, which is usually enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
As an example a breakfast of 50g oats with 200ml of full fat milk has 15g of protein. Two poached eggs on two slices of toast will give 21g of protein. A lunch of baked salmon with salad will give around 35g of protein.
Food sources/weight/grams of protein
Turkey breast (half)/150g/33g
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