How missing your protein targets can have negative effects on your body composition and performance
Given that our bodies are made up primarily of protein, it’s fair to say that without it, we aren’t going to survive, let alone thrive.
Protein is an essential nutrient in our diet. It plays an important role in muscle growth and repair as well contributing to enzyme and hormone production.
Protein is essential in:
- Building and repairing connective tissue in the body like muscles, tendons and ligaments
- The structure for red blood cells;
- The proper functioning of antibodies to resist infection;
- The regulation of enzymes and hormones
When most think of protein, they think of muscles. Yes, building muscles is an important function of protein but, as you saw above, protein serves other critical purposes in our diet especially when you think about weight loss.
- Stabilises your blood sugar which is very important in fat loss;
- Builds more lean muscle mass (more muscle elevates resting metabolism and allow you to burn more calories throughout the day);
- Keeps you full and wards off hunger (think less desire for junk or snack foods);
Conversely, a lack of protein can lead to muscle wastage and immune deficiency.
Keep these points about protein in mind:
- Protein sources that are unprocessed and of high quality (like grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, organic poultry, wild fish, or beans) are best.
- Protein foods that are processed like (cold cuts, salami, pepperoni) can be filled with preservatives and other things you don’t want in your body. Research is pretty clear that large amounts of these foods are not good for your health; minimise as much as you can.
A variety of proteins is important to include in your diet, but not all proteins are created equal. The quality of the protein can differ greatly even amongst the same type of protein like beef. This idea of quality and purity is especially true when examining animal-based proteins.
In the grocery store, especially the fancy health ones, you are going to encounter all sorts of labels for protein. Things like organic, grass-fed, pastured, cage-free and other labels. The labels give you some insight into how the animal was raised and what it was fed.
There is a huge difference between an animal that is raised on grains and one that is grown in its natural environment and has been allowed to eat grass.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
There is no one-size fits all for the amount of protein we must intake, however, there are some parameters which are seen to be the most advantageous for us.
The right amount of protein for any one individual depends on their body type, age, gender, muscle mass, activity levels, and physique goals.
The lowest recommended intake is at 1.2g/kg of lean body mass (LBM) (your total weight minus your fat mass), and the highest recommended is 3g/kg of LBM.
For those who are regularly following a strength and conditioning program, sitting between 1.8-2.2g/kg of lean body mass is ideal.
We recommend tracking your food for a week in a diary or an app like myfitnesspal, so that you can get an objective measure of how much protein you’re consuming and whether you need to alter those habits.
As part of our fundamentals onboarding process, we help you find your exact number of calories and macronutrient breakdown for your goals, however, if you’re wanting to try it on your own, a good starting place would be to place your macros with this split
35% protein, 35% fat and 30% carbohydrates.
WHERE DO YOU FIND IT?
When most people think of protein sources, chicken and beef usually come to mind first, but did you know that protein is found in a variety of foods. Below is a shortlist of protein sources to allow you to add variety to your diet.
MEAT AND DAIRY
- Beef – Steak, lean minced beef
- Pork – Pork and ham
- Poultry – Turkey, duck and chicken
- Game – Venison and wild game
- Eggs – Egg whites and whole Eggs
- Dairy – Plain Greek yoghurt, 4% cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, hard cheese and plain kefir
- Quinoa, grains and legumes
- Soy variations
The above list is not an exhaustive list of protein, but it will give you a good place to start. This week, focus on where you are getting your protein. Your task is simple – add a significant protein source to every meal.
Note on Dairy: Be conscious of how your body feels after consuming dairy. Though a good source of protein, dairy may cause bloating, gassiness, lethargy among other symptoms. If you experience these, we suggest eliminating from your diet to see if symptoms improve.
FISH AND SHELLFISH
- Shellfish – Crab, lobster, oyster, prawns, mussels, scallops, squid, langoustine
- White Fish – Cod, haddock, plaice, pollock, coley, dab, flounder, red mullet, gurnard, tilapia
- Oily Fish – Herring and kipper, pilchards, wild salmon, sardines, sprats, trout, mackerel
To ensure there are enough fish to eat now and in the future, we should try to eat a wide variety of fish and to buy fish from sustainable sources.
DO YOU NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
The word “supplement” pretty much answers the question itself as you will only need to supplement your intake if you aren’t getting enough protein through the natural food sources listed above.
It acts as a gap filler between your regular diet and the amount you actually need.
E.g. your body requires 180g but you’re only managing 130g.
Most people take it as an insurance policy because you’re much better off ensuring you’re hitting those parameters than falling short.
It can be a little more convenient to chug down a nice tasting chocolate shake after a workout, compared to getting the BBQ out and cooking a scotch fillet, but that’s totally your call.
Studies have shown that the uptake of protein is no different between shakes vs real food, however, there are definitely other factors to consider when opting for the processed dairy option.
CAN YOU GET ENOUGH PROTEIN EATING A PLANT-BASED DIET?
You can definitely get enough protein from eating plants, however, it will require a lot more effort and a higher volume of food.
Meat based foods have a higher % of proteins per g and therefore, opting for a no meat diet will require you to eat more food in order to achieve the same amount of protein (g)., often coming at the cost of increased carbohydrates and calories.
Another point to mention is the “essential amino acid sequences” found in meat are often not found in plants, meaning you will be lacking 9 of the 20 amino acids needed for your body.
If you are vegan, good options include beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, tempeh, tofu and pea protein powder. If you are not vegan, you could also include eggs, cottage cheese, plain Greek or Skyr yoghurt, and whey protein powder. If you are pescatarian, fish is an excellent source of protein.
IT ALL ADDS UP.
Also, in addition to the list of high protein foods above, nearly all foods contain some protein. A serving of green vegetables (100g) would contain about 2.9g of protein. A serving of oats (45g) would give you just over 6g of protein.
In order to really take control of your food intake, cooking at home is an important skill to master. If you are not used to cooking at home don’t let this freak you out. It’s a lot easier than you think. If you are already cooking at home, awesome.
Today is all about how to prepare protein. Protein can be prepared in many ways – most of which are very easy and don’t require you to be a finalist on Master Chef.
- Cook a bunch of protein up all at once & use it throughout the week. If you choose a day (Sundays typically work well) to do your cooking, you’ll save yourself time and energy. PLUS you’ll have no excuse to not eat healthy all week!
Here are some basic ways to prepare protein foods based on the kind of food you’re looking to make:
Eggs – The possibilities are endless. Make them fried, scrambled, or get fancy with frittatas and omelettes. Add some vegetables for a well-rounded meal.
Stir Fry – All you need is a pan, coconut oil or butter, veggies, spices & a stirring utensil. Make it into fajitas by adding salsa, avocados and black beans.
Wraps – Grab some protein. Grab some vegetables. Grab a little sauce (hummus, hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, etc). Wrap it up with collard greens or iceberg lettuce.
Skewers – Spice meat with salt, pepper, fresh herbs, citrus or low-sugar sauces or spice mixes. Grill them whole or on a skewer with your vegetables.
Slow Cooker – Place your protein (meat or poultry works best) in the crockpot alone or with veggies. Add some water or broth. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 2-4.
Soak or Boil – If you buy dry beans, follow the instructions on the packaging for preparing. If you plan ahead, you can soak the beans to rehydrate them. If you’re looking for quick preparation, boiling might be your best option. Again, check the packaging for individual instructions!
Director and Head Coach