I’m a protein forward practitioner. When I help my clients fine-tune their macronutrient ratios, protein is always the nutrient we target first and takes priority. We easily get enough fat and carbohydrates in our diets. Protein is another story.
If you’re unsure how much protein you should be consuming, and why, here’s a generalized summary of why protein is so important and how to determine your requirements.
First and foremost, proteins are the precursor to nearly every chemical process (think enzymes, antibodies, and peptide hormones which affect the endocrine system) and the building blocks for all tissues, organs, nerves, and muscles in the body.
Proteins and essential for digestion and detoxification. Proteins in the foods you consume actually trigger chemical reactions in your body to tell your digestive system what is needed to break down the foods you eat. If you’re consuming too little protein or not eating protein with every meal (or snack), your digestive system won’t operate optimally and you risk maximizing nutrient absorption.
Proteins improve satiety and increase thermogenesis. That means you’ll feel satisfied longer and you’ll burn more calories simply by eating more protein.
They rebuild tissues and are imperative for muscle growth and repair. Even if you’re not trying to “bulk up,” building muscle and staying strong later in life is vital. Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) is attributed to injuries in the elderly due to instability and weakness of the muscles and thus causing falls and other accidents.
Generally, you should aim to consume .75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Bodybuilders and those really pushing to increase muscle mass for sport may increase higher, up to 1.2 grams per pound. If you’re trying to lose weight or are an athlete, protein requirements should be adjusted to meet individual factors. If overweight, generally, I’d recommend your protein intake, in grams, be roughly equal to your goal weight.
Customization is based on age, gender, activity level, caloric intake, digestive function, and goals.
The best complete sources of protein that contain all nine essential amino acids come from nutrient-dense whole foods: meat, fish, eggs, and some dairy products if tolerated by the individual. Whey protein is a supplement that should be used secondary to whole foods but a great option to bridge the gap when transitioning to higher protein intake.
Vegetable proteins from nuts, seeds, and vegetables count towards total protein consumption but do not contain all nine essential amino acids so make sure you’re eating a diverse array of foods for good overall health and adequate protein.
If getting enough protein is a challenge, this is my area of expertise. Reach out and we can create a plan to ensure you’re getting enough to meet (or meat, HA!) your needs.