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Power of Protein

What are proteins?

Proteins provide the building blocks we need to grow and repair, in the form of amino acids. Amino acids can be made by the body or obtained from the foods that we eat. There are 20 different amino acids available in foods, but only 11 of these can be made by our body. The remaining 9 are termed “essential” amino acids because we have to get them from our diet.

Amino acids provide fundamental structural and functional elements within our cells and are involved in a wide range of metabolic interactions in our body. They can be found in a range of animal or plant-based foods. Examples of foods which are high in protein include beans and pulses, nuts, grains, fish, seafood, meat, dairy & eggs. These foods also provide a range of vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc and B vitamins important for a healthy diet.

How much protein we need each day, depends on our age, weight and life stage and therefore can change throughout our lifetime. However typically we need around 45-56g of protein a day for a typical adult. Most people meet this recommended intake quite easily.

Do we need more if we’re playing sport or more active?

Protein is important in sports performance, for boosting storage of glycogen, reducing muscle soreness and promoting muscle repair.

Whilst there are benefits to increasing protein intake for athletes, or those performing at a high level, the importance of high protein diets is often overstated for the general population. It is a common misconception that consuming a high protein diet alone will increase muscle mass, this can often mean missing out on getting enough carbohydrate which is a more efficient source of energy for exercise.

 

Should I take a protein supplement?

The short answer is simple, no! A well-balanced diet is usually adequate in providing the recommended intake of protein. Protein supplements can be useful for people who have certain dietary restrictions or those who have increased requirements (e.g. professional athletes), however, for the general population, a high-quality source of protein in your post workout meal is sufficient.

 

Can I get enough protein from a plant-based diet?

References

  • British Nutrition Foundation (2018) Nutrition for sport and exercise. Available at: www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/an-active-lifestyle/eating-for-sport-and-exercise
  • World Health Organisation. Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. 2007. Available at: https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/nutrientrequirements/WHO_TRS_935/en/