Protein: the basics


This article is going to briefly explain what all the hype has been in regards to protein:

- Why is it essential to have in our diets?

- Why do most health professionals recommend it for people trying to lose weight?

- How much do we need on average each day?

- What food sources can I find protein?

Why is protein essential to have in our diets?

  • Your body uses protein to build and repair all the tissues that are made up of it in your body, which is estimated at around 50% of our body's dry weight (that's a fair bit).

  • You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals which keep it functioning at its best, such a libido (now who doesn't want that?)

  • Protein is also an essential building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood which we need to help us feel strong and healthy.

  • When we're sick and or bedridden, even small amounts of protein help keep us healthy and help reduce muscle loss while being inactive over long periods; this is also called muscle atrophy.

  • If we're injured, our body uses protein to help repair itself so we can recover and get active quicker.

Why do most health professionals recommend it for people trying to lose weight?

  • It helps reduce and manage our appetite and hunger levels by making us feel fuller for longer.

  • Our body's needs are more significant when we're exercising such as to help increase muscle mass, strength, for recovering after those hard workouts and more.

  • Proteins effect on hormones regulation is essential for weight loss and management since they have a significant influence on our appetite, metabolism and body fat distribution.

How much protein do we need every day?

There has been many studies and research to help address this, and the simple answer is, it depends.

What it depends on is you, your age, activity, weight and a few other factors which are beyond the scope of this article.

Below is a summary list combining all of the recommendations from various institutions around the world.

These are the current recommendations calculated at per gram of protein per kilogram of total body weight.

General 0.8 - 1.2 g/per kg of total body weight

Fat Loss (no exercise) 1.2 - 1.6 g/per kg of total body weight

Fat Loss (with exercise) 1.6 - 2.2 g/per kg of total body weight

Muscle Gain 1.8 - 2.2 g/per kg of total body weight

As you can see, from these recommendations there's quite a large range of 0.8 - 2.2 g/per kg of total body weight.

Researchers concluded this because of their reasoning behind it.

At the lower end, 0.8 is estimated to be a minimum requirement before going into protein related deficiency. At the higher end, 2.2 was determined due to reasons like maximum muscle building potential; this also included enough for protein absorption, performance and recovery.

What food sources can I find protein?

Before I start listing, I'd like to you know that researches have discovered that not all protein sources are created equal. Without getting into to much detail you can say that there are two categories for proteins, complete and incomplete, the reason for this is due to their amino acid profile. Amino acids are what proteins are structured from and also what your body uses when proteins are broken down and digested.

Some sources of dietary protein include:

Complete Proteins

Red meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese, in other words, anything related to a typical animal.

In many cultures besides than "western", other living creatures have also be eaten as a great source of protein, like edible bugs and insects.

Due to reasons like terrible farming practices, animal cruelty and now the ever-growing concern of long term environmental damage and sustainability "western" cultures are now introducing edible bugs and insects. Try typing it into your search engine (i.e. Google), and you can find out what is available in your country.

One reason for people to have such a bias towards meat is not only due to these sources having a complete amino acid profile, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12 but they also have higher amounts per gram when compared to plant-based sources.

For the reasons mentioned above, this makes it easy to get your daily dose without too much planning on your end.

Incomplete Proteins

These are mainly plant-based protein sources as they are missing one or more amino acid from the complete set (profile).

Non-animal eaters such as vegetarians and vegans have to plan a little more on their side if they want to get a complete profile of amino acids in their diet. Using food sources like seeds and nuts, beans and legumes (such as lentils and chickpeas), soy products like tofu, some grain and cereal-based products are also sources of protein but are generally not as high in protein as meat and meat alternative products.

A widely popular complete source of protein especially for vegetarians can also be found using a supplement such a whey protein concentrate (WPC), but because it is sourced from dairy, vegans might avoid it. Fortunately, there are other protein supplements such as pea, brown rice, hemp, seed and soy. You can also purchase some that use different blends.

For most professionals I've read and learned from especially in the health and fitness industry, protein is generally considered to be the most critical component in one's diet especially for fat loss.


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All the best to your health.