Did you know that the word protein originates form the Greek work Protos, meaning first? This reflects how important protein is in our body with it being the second most abundant compound in our body behind water. Unfortunately, there has been lots of misinformation circulating about protein and how much we need in our diets. Here’s some evidence based information on this essential nutrient to cut through the confusion.
Lego blocks and protein?
The building blocks of protein are called Amino Acids and there are two types: Essential amino acids which cannot be produced by our body so need to be consumed in our diet and Non-essential amino acids which can be produced by our bodies. Amino acids are like Lego blocks; you can’t build a whole Lego house without all the blocks and we can’t build the protein our body needs without all the amino acids.
Why do we need protein?
There are numerous functions of protein in our body including repair and growth, structure of our body tissues, regulation of metabolism, aiding our immune system and muscle contraction just to name a few. Protein is also the primary component of our hair, skin and nails. If we eat too much protein, the nitrogen waste is excreted in our urine putting stress on our kidneys and may also cause dehydration. If we don’t eat enough then the numerous functions that rely on protein are compromised and the body starts to take it from existing body stores such as hair, skin, nails and muscle.
How much do we need?
There are specific calculations for protein requirements based on age, gender, health status and physical activity levels and are calculated according to body weight. These calculations are based on what is required to maintain good health. The teenage years are the second fastest period of growth in our lives (the fastest being the first 12 months), so we need a higher intake during these years. Once we reach the age of 70, our body’s ability to grow and repair reduces so our protein needs also increase. For those who like to build muscle or compete in body building competitions, protein requirements are slightly higher. Those who have undergone bariatric (weight loss) surgery, also have a higher requirement. Here is a breakdown of the general requirements for the general population:
Recommended Dietary Protein Intake per Day
Age Male – grams per kilogram of body weight Female – grams per kilogram of body weight
14-18 0.99 0.77
19-70 0.84 0.75
Over 70 1.07 0.94
Before you get confused with these calculations, generally, 15-25% of your daily food intake should be protein, which is dependent on your personal health needs. Your dinner plate should contain about 50% vegetables (3 serves) , 25% protein foods (1-2 serves) and 25% carbohydrate foods (1-2 serves).
Food sources of protein
All animal products are good sources of complete protein, which contain all the essential amino acids. Plant based sources also contain protein, however many do not contain all the essential amino acids (soy is an exception). Here is a brief list of protein foods:
• lean meat, poultry and fish
• dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
• soy products such as tofu
• seeds and nuts
• legumes such as chick peas and lentils
• grains and cereals
Triathletes, Body builders and Bariatrics
If you have specific dietary requirements then we can write up a personalised meal plan for you. Our Accredited Practising Dietitians consult with many patients who have undergone bariatric surgery and offer advice to those who are wanting to compete at high level amateur sports such as body building and Muay Thai.
We provide analysis of 16 various nutrients for all our recipes so you know exactly what you are eating. If you’d like to check out our recipes you can click on the link here for our FREE RECIPES
Written by Lisa Stegena, Nutritionist
Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programs, private dietetic consultations, children’s nutrition & dietetics, school nutrition and Corporate Wellness programs. If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.