Not gunna lie - before I began my fitness journey, before becoming a personal trainer, before I started working on my nutrition certification before I really cared about what I was putting into my body, I used to low-key roll my eyes whenever I heard anyone boldly inquire, “Are you getting enough protein?!”
Society’s commercial world of protein pushing has us all thinking that the only people who need or should be paying close attention to protein intake are those gym rats who are butt slapping each other in the gym yelling, “GAINZ!” However, the importance of protein intake extends far, FAR beyond superficial trap growth.
Let’s start with what protein actually is, and what it does for the body.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. They are responsible for muscle growth and repair, as well as assisting in the process of breaking down food. There are nine essential amino acids that our bodies need to function properly, and we have to get all of them from our food.
9 essential amino acids - histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine
We need protein every day to function and repair the break down of muscle tissue, and to promote the upkeep of a multitude of metabolic processes in the body. When we don't eat enough protein for a long period of time bad things happen - like a loss of muscle mass and strength, and slower metabolism.
How much protein should you actually be eating?
According to the USDA, inactive individuals should be eating a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the following is an appropriate protein intake (per day) for active individuals;
“Endurance events (training or engaging in 10 hours or more of more vigorous weekly exercise): 1.2 – 1.4 g per kilogram of body weight.
Resistance training (training for muscle hypertrophy or strength): 1.4 – 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.”
Appropriate protein intake, along with an individualized workout program, is crucial for individuals seeking to lose weight.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the individual seeking to lose weight should be consuming 1.6 - 2.2 g/kg per day.
For example, if my body weight is 140 lbs, which is 63.5 kg (thanks google) - and I am planning on consuming the minimum amount of protein necessary for weight loss - I multiply 1.6 x 63.5 = 101.6 g of protein per day.
Protein intake assists with weight loss in a multitude of ways.
Protein makes you feel more full, for longer periods of time.
It takes more energy to digest and metabolize protein than carbs or fats.
It is harder for the body to store protein as fat.
Look at labels to determine how much protein you are consuming. As a rule of thumb, eat protein with every meal.
Proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids are called complete proteins, which are found in animal products (meats, eggs, dairy) and several plant based foods including quinoa, buckwheat (soba noodles), hempseed, blue- green algae, and soybeans.
Several combinations of plant based foods can combine to create complete proteins;
Hummus and Pita
Beans and Rice
Spirulina and with grains or oats
Google recipes with any combination of these foods, and you’re sure to get thousands of recipes from various food bloggers (after you scroll past their lengthy stories of childhood first, of course).
Protein intake is an essential part of the conversation when it comes to any exercise regimen or meal planning strategy. All 9 essential amino acids are needed in the diet on a consistent basis for muscle repair and upkeep. The body relies on protein to build lean body mass and regulate metabolism.
Quality of life begins with knowing what you’re putting in your body. We can practice integrity and self love with good nutrition.
To your success and wellness,
All my love,