Protein…this mystical ingredient in your meals that builds your muscles and helps you lose weight…right?
Well, yes, but there’s a lot of misunderstandings about protein floating out there in the world wide web and beyond that I’d like to clear up.
The Lowdown on Protein
There are 3 macronutrients that are all essential to us human beings. They are Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein.
Protein is involved in every process in your body. To understand the whole scope of proteins you have to consider this:
There are 4 types of Proteins and they all play different roles in your body.
- Collagen is the best and most widely-known example of a structural protein. Your body takes the protein you ingest and breaks it down into amino acid chains (these are what make up proteins) to create new proteins like collagen that literally hold our bodies together.
- These are your builder proteins which span a wide array of different tasks in the body. They build and break down molecules for different body processes including the digestion of food.
- These proteins are like the mail carriers of your body (only faster, more efficient, and there’s a LOT more of them). Hemoglobin, found in your blood, carries oxygen to all the different parts of your body so it can be used by the muscles and the lungs.
- These are the bouncers of your body. They sit outside of cell walls and only allow certain molecules in and out of the cell.
So now that you have a basic understanding of the wide range of tasks protein must serve in our body, what practical knowledge should we take from this into our everyday life? Well here’s what you should know:
- You should eat protein every single day. How much? The RDA is .8 grams of protein for each kg (2.2lb.) of weight. Here is how you calculate it
- Calculate your body weight in kg: Weight in lbs x .45 = body weight in kg.
- Multiply your weight in kg by 0.8. This is the grams of proteins you should consume per day
- Most people in America eat 3-5 times as much protein as they need. There are a few problems with this.
- Excess protein is stored as Fat…not fat like olive oil or avocados, body fat, the stuff you are likely trying to get rid of on your body.
- Because meat is the primary source for many people, it causes a very high saturated fat intake which in turn causes higher cholesterol. This leads to a higher risk of Cardiovascular Diseases which cause 610,000 deaths in the U.S. alone every year.
- Eating protein actually causes your body to excrete calcium. This is especially important to think about for women and children who tend to suffer from calcium deficiencies the most. Too much calcium loss can cause bone-health concerns.
- Too much protein can put stress on the kidneys and may cause diarrhea and dehydration.
- Protein is touted for it’s weight loss benefits because a smaller amount of protein can typically keep you full longer. It also helps to build back muscle that was broken down during exercise to a stronger version of itself. But like I mentioned above, too much protein is stored as body fat.
Best Sources of Lean Protein
Make it Complete!
There are 9 essential amino acids that your body needs to form complete proteins. All sources of animal proteins provide all 9 of these along with tofu, tempeh, quinoa and buckwheat.
Legumes, fruits and veggies are all missing the same amino acids and conversely, nuts, grains and seeds are missing the other amino acids. So the trick to getting complete proteins out of these vegetarian sources is to pair legumes, fruits and veggies with nuts, grains or seeds.
For example: You can pair black beans with rice for a complete source of protein, and I love me some beans and rice!