It seems that the word protein is the new fad word within food right now. We all praise and recommend it, from meal companies, supplement brands and snack companies to most fitness coaches and dieticians.
Is the hype real? Or are we being lead down a great food marketing campaign, just like the days when “fat free” was meant to be the all-important way to eat your foods, however all the hype was simply a well-orchestrated marketing lie. Furthermore, how can we ignore the fact that most products, which focus on the nutrient protein, come with a premium price tag, including protein balls, protein chips, protein cookies, protein chocolate and protein bars.
There are so many questions that we need to all ask. My goal is to answer, what I believe are the two most important questions, so you can make the right decisions around eating the right foods to achieve your goals, whether it be losing weight, putting on muscle or training for a sporting event.
What is protein?
Protein is one of the three important nutrients found in the food that the human body commands in sizeable quantities. The other two that are required by the body are carbohydrates and fat, and along with protein all three are necessary for the human body to function well.
Proteins are compiled of small compounds, called amino acids. There are hundreds of amino acids that exist, however, the human body only utilises 22 of them.
Our bodies can create all but nine of the amino acids that it requires. We call these nine ‘essential amino acids’ and it is a must that we consume these nine through the food we eat daily.
Every food we consume contains a different combination of amino acids, which means having a balanced diet is essential to our survival. What most people understand is that animal proteins like meat (i.e chicken or beef), dairy, and eggs all contain protein, however, what we all may not be aware of is the fact that each one of these foods have all nine essential amino acids that the human body requires. Another key point to note is that unlike the other 2 key nutrients fat and carbohydrates, protein isn’t stored by the human body. It’s one of the reasons why we are recommended to consume protein every day.
If your tipping your toe into the world of veganism and vegetarianism then most of your proteins will come from foods like beans, grains, nuts, and soy, which are rich in most amino acids. However, it’s important to note that they may be lacking in others and no one food source will have all nine essential amino acids. It is one of the reasons why fitness coaches and dieticians preach to us all about managing our diet with a variety of food and maintaining a balance.
What are the benefits to consuming protein?
Protein is the most important component of every cell in the human body. Our hair, skin and nails are mostly made up of protein. Our body requires protein to build and regenerate bone, cartilage, blood, skin, muscle and even organ tissues. What is even more interesting is that our body requires a production of enzymes and hormones, so we can function daily. Without regular protein consumption, the development of both enzymes and hormones would not be able to occur.
So, should we be making the investment on protein focused foods? Hell, YES!
Without protein, our bodies are not able to function correctly.
If you are on weight loss journey and you are wanting to get into those skinny jeans, or you just want to look amazing in your wedding dress, then taking a closer look at your protein consumption will help you in leaps and bounds. Here is a list of what our RDI (recommended dietary intake) of protein should be:
The Australian Recommended Dietary Intake of protein for women aged 19–70 years is 46 grams per day.
The Australian Recommended Dietary Intake of protein for men aged 19–70 years is 64 grams per day.
To get you 1% closer to achieving your health and wellbeing goals here are 5 key points to keep in mind:
- Protein can reduce your appetite and hunger. Studies show that protein is by far the most filling nutrient. It helps you feel fuller, with less foo. A diet high in protein has proven to reduce hunger, which means you will eat less food throughout the day. One of the reasons this happens is because protein is necessary to assist the body in developing and balancing weight regulating hormones.
- Protein can help you maintain and grow muscle mass, and improve your strength. Muscles are made up of protein, an intake of protein can assist with muscle gain and strength, while it can also assist with fat loss when trying to lose weight.
- Our bones require protein for cell redevelopment and strength. As we age, our bones are known to get weaker and therefore people who eat more protein focused foods tend to have better bone density as they get older. This significantly lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
- Foods high in protein have a much higher thermic effect (20-35%) than that of fat or carbohydrates (5-15%). One study on protein, which included overfeeding test groups of people with different food nutrients, found that the high protein group burned 260 calories more per day than the low-protein group. This is equivalent to an hourof moderate-intensity exercise per day.
- High protein diets have been proven to assist you with weight management and support your long-term health goals, so you can keep the weight off. Protein high diets boost metabolism and lead to an automatic reduction in your overall calorie intake and food cravings.
So, is the protein hype real? YES!
All research and collected data prove that protein is the most important nutrient for the human body. As we cannot store this nutrient, we rely on regular consumption of protein rich foods to maintain a healthy body. While there are many protein focused and labelled products out on the market, be aware that not to fall for good marketing. Always ensure that you check what is actually in the food that you buy as many of them have a good protein content but will be laced with a large amount of sugar, artificial flavours or saturated fat. A good rule of thumb is to stick to whole foods and avoid the processed foods that simply sell you on the word ‘protein’.