Many people are confused about nutrition and rightly so. It’s a minefield. So in this blog I’ve decided to answer a few of the main questions about protein. It can be very technical but I’ll try and keep it simple so you can grasp a better understanding of one of the most important ingredients in your diet.
Have you ever wondered what protein is and why we need it?
Protein is a molecule made up of amino acids. Basically, proteins are building blocks of the human body. We need it for growth, maintenance and repair of the body tissue and muscle. It is part of every living cell and is found in skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, hair and the core of bones and teeth.
Enzymes and antibodies are also proteins which we need for a wide range of reactions and responses in the body, vital to such things like your metabolism, along with producing white blood cells to fight infection. So, it’s kind of important that we have protein in our diet, especially if you are exercising.
So where is protein found?
Some proteins can be made in the body, however a few important ones can’t, so we need to ensure we get enough of these from the food we eat. Protein can be found in a range of foods such as meat, eggs, milk, cheese, soybean, oats, rice, beans and nuts). Regularly eating these foods will provide you with enough protein but if you are a vegetarian/vegan, you may need to ensure you eat a wide range of foods to ensure you consume enough protein: some meal examples are tofu and stir fried vegetables with pasta, chilli bean taco or mixed bean casserole with rice.
How much protein do we need and are there risks of having too little or too much protein?
It is recommended that protein intake is roughly about 10-15% of your daily calorie intake (which is about 2-3 servings a day). This shouldn’t be a problem in a normal healthy balanced diet. However, too little protein can lead to medical conditions, seen more often in third world countries.
If you take in too much protein regularly, your body will need to work to excrete any excess, which can lead to liver and kidney damage. Excess could also be stored as fat as well as affecting the bones as it alters the body’s ability to uptake calcium. Also too much protein can lead to increases in ammonia in the blood which is toxic, particularly to the brain. These complications however, only happen if the intake is persistently high.
So it is therefore important to remember, that even though you may need extra protein to help repair and build muscle when exercising, you don’t need huge amounts. For example, drinking protein shakes are generally not needed for the average exerciser, as you could be putting your body under strain, and more importantly, be putting on weight!