Confused about how much protein you need? We separate some myths from facts! Read on, or watch Heather explain on Virgin Media Weekend AM.
Only athletes need to worry about it – myth!
- When we think of protein, we might straight away think of body builders or endurance athletes, who do have a higher requirement. However, we all need it. It helps us to build and repair muscle and to produce bones, joint, tendons, ligaments, hair, skin, nails and for a healthy immune system
- Protein also helps to keep us fuller for longer, which is why it’s particularly important when trying to maintain a healthy weight. Including a small amount with every meal is a great way to boost your intake and keep you fuelled for longer
- Updated FSAI recommendations for older adults this year has stressed the need to eat enough protein to maintain muscle mass as we get older and many older people are not getting enough in their diet
You need to eat lots of protein – depends!
- Unfortunately, this it where it gets complicated! Requirements differ hugely, depending on our age, sex, level of activity and many other factors. General recommendations are 0.8g per kg of body weight, so a 65kg woman in theory needs 52g of protein per day. But this will vary widely depending on age, activity levels and types and many other dietary, lifestyle and health factors…..
- An easier way to think about it is as ¼ of your plate at every meal and snack, rather than getting bogged down in grams. This also spreads your intake out over the day
Vegetarians and vegans cannot get enough – myth!
- Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are some of our most popular and best sources of protein. But plant-based sources are also very helpful to include, like nuts, seeds, tofu and especially pulses like chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils and these are often more sustainable choices too
- It is harder to get enough protein and especially a variety of protein from a completely plant-based diet, as different proteins need to be combined with other foods to get the full range of amino acids. But with a little planning it can easily be done. One thing to watch out for are many of the vegan ready foods like sausages and burgers that are a huge growth category. Most are not great sources of healthy protein and like their processed meat equivalent, should only be eaten occasionally. Look for an ingredient list that is short and contains only ingredients you would use yourself if making a bean burger from scratch.
You cannot have too much – mainly myth!
- Protein in excess can contribute to kidney issues, but usually only where there is an underlying kidney issue or the protein quantities are enormous. Most of us are not at risk of protein excess, especially if sticking to the ¼ plate guideline. The bigger issue with eating too much protein is that other types of foods like vegetables and wholegrains will get squeezed out and you need these for health and especially for your microbiome
You need to include protein drinks, bars or supplements – mainly myth!
- Most of us can get enough protein through food. However, if very active and if doing intense or endurance exercise, adding a simple protein powder to a fruit and veg smoothie can be an easy way to bump up intake after an intense workout. Make sure you chose one without lots of additives and sweeteners like a simple whey, pea or hemp protein powder
Ideas to get enough protein throughout the day
Add seeds or natural yoghurt to your porridge
Scrambled eggs with spinach and slice wholegrain bread
Slice wholegrain bread with nut butter and banana
Include lentils or beans in a vegetable soup
Cheese / tinned salmon with a baked potato and salad or in a wholegrain wrap
Falafel, hummus and salad in a wholegrain pitta
Eat a palmful of nuts or seeds with a piece of fruit
Natural yoghurt with fruit
Roast a piece of fish and eat with steamed vegetables and new potatoes
Add fish, chicken or tofu to stirfried veg and wholegrain rice
Chickpea and butternut squash curry with wholegrain rice
If you would like more information about the services we offer, including testing, please get in touch.