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  • Writer's pictureRayne Roberts

Do You Need Protein Powders?

Protein is a major requirement for our bodies. It is needed for optimal health, growth, repair, the production of hormones to name a few roles. We need to eat or drink it regularly and it's entirely possible for you to meet your daily requirements, assuming you're healthy, through food.

You don't need protein powders unless you have a particularly high need that makes relying on dietary intake difficult (e.g. an elite athlete) or there's a justifiable and specific reason, possibly connected to a time limit. So our take on it is "Food First, then a Supplement".

Most of us in the West eat enough protein every day. Protein is readily found in meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs, for example. The BNF in the UK recommends that protein intake is calculated by body weight at 0.75g of protein for every kilogram of your body weight (1). So if you weigh 60kg:

60kg x 0.75g = 45g of protein per day, split between 3 meals which is 15g per meal

What does 15g of protein look like?

  • Small 150g pot of Greek yoghurt

  • 2 large eggs

  • Just over 1/2 a 400g of Heinz baked beans

When do you need more protein?

Those with high activity levels may need to increase their protein by around 50% and athletes may need 1.4g - 2g per kg of body weight to account for maintenance and repair needs. Bear in mind that it's down to each person's individual needs. As The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) says:

"Recommendations regarding the optimal protein intake per serving for athletes to maximize MPS (muscle protein synthesis) are mixed and are dependent upon age and recent resistance exercise stimuli." (2)

It's worth noting that protein requirements also increase in older adults who need higher levels to keep their skeleton and muscle mass strong. Older people may need around 25% more protein than the current guidelines.

Injuries including surgery recovery, regardless of age, also trigger a higher protein need so your body can repair and rebuild. In my experience, people aren't aware of this and a key group we've worked with are those who have elected for or received an emergency c-section. That's major abdominal surgery, so having regular protein during recovery is imperative.

How much protein?

It is generally considered that your body can metabolise around 20-25g of protein at each meal, but this doesn't take into account your weight or muscle mass. A great research paper found that participants could, in fact, make use of more (well, healthy males at least). To give you an example, this paper's results suggested that a 100kg athlete could make use of 30-34g of protein at each meal. But this won't apply to everyone and doesn't mean that you need half a chicken and a protein shake after a weekend gym session! Certainly, protein pulsing - where you have regular intakes of protein during the day as part of your normal diet - is a great way to meet your protein requirements.

What happens if I eat lots of protein?

If you're healthy, your body will use the protein for biochemical reactions and you'll pee out the nitrogen cleaved off amino acids. But beware if you have a kidney issue and talk to your GP.

Some surprising protein sources:

Vegetable based proteins

Known as "complete proteins" these foods contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs but can't produce itself. You can find them in:

* Soy - tofu, tempeh, natto and edamame beans

* Quinoa

* Amaranth

* Buckwheat

* Chia seeds

You can combine protein sources to make a "complete protein" meal in lieu of animal products

Complementary Proteins

Examples of combining protein sources to make "complete proteins"

* Baked beans on Toast

* Kidney beans with Rice

* Hummus and Pita bread

* Lentil and Cashew curry

* Peanut butter porridge

Other great protein sources apart from meat, fish and poultry

* Legumes and Pulses: Chickpeas, Lentils, Beans

* Dairy: Milk, * Yogurt (particularly Greek yogurt), Quark, Hard Cheese e.g. cheddar, Cottage cheese

* Eggs

* Seafood like Prawns

* Nuts

Tips to get your protein in each day

  1. Start the day with protein - a high protein breakfast e.g. eggs keeps your hunger locked up for longer.

  2. Snack on nuts or seeds - great protein sources with plenty of nutrients

  3. Afternoon munchies - add cheddar cheese or peanut butter to your apple slices

  4. Add a small Greek yogurt and banana to your kit bag - protein and carbs for a post exercise boost

  5. Simple substitutes - replace mashed potato with mashed butter beans; go for quinoa over rice; swap regular pasta for buckwheat noodles; add toasted nuts and seeds to salads instead of croutons

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