Protein is one of the three macronutrients that your body requires. And rather than providing energy like carbs and fats, the main role of protein in the body is to grow and repair cells and essentially to help them work properly. We need protein in the diet to grow and adapt as a response to training and without it, it will make the process much more difficult.
Where do we get our protein from?
Protein is made from 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential. Meaning that we cannot create them in our body, and therefore must acquire them in our diet. So, when it comes to the argument for plant vs animal sources, the reason so many people advocate animal sources is due to the fact no one plant protein is a complete protein. Meaning that they do not contain all nine of the essential amino acids. But this does not mean it’s better or worse, it’s a case that you may want to pair your protein sources if only using plant options. So, for example, nuts and seeds are limited in Lysine and therefore need to be complimented with some legumes to create a complete protein!
On top of that protein powders are an extremely common way of upping our total protein intake, and are seen as a “superior” protein. When in reality that’s all they are is protein but when we opt for protein from whole food sources, we can incorporate an array of vitamins and minerals that we could not include if we just prioritised a protein powder! And consuming protein from whole foods may be more beneficial for muscle protein synthesis (MPS) than using solely a protein source. For example, when researched it was found that consuming a whole egg had a greater effect on MPS than just consuming the white on its own! So, something to keep in mind when choosing protein sources!
How much protein do we need?
How much protein your body requires will depend on several factors such as weight, gender, age, health and training load/type! Generally, the recommendation can range from 1.2 – 2.0g/kg of body weight (with some people requiring even more than this). So, when trying to decide how much protein you may require consider the following:
- What type of training do you do? With more strength-based training its generally advised to opt for the upper end of the recommendation
- How much training do you do? Again, similar to above the greater amounts of training generally require greater amounts of protein to recover from the training load
- What is your current goal i.e. weight loss? A high protein diet here can be beneficial to preserve muscle mass while trying to lose body fat. Therefore limit the amount of muscle you lose
- Do you have a high carbohydrate requirement? For example, field sports require a greater amount of carbs so if this is something you train for then your requirements may be on the lower end to allow for carb intake
As protein needs vary, it can be sometimes confusing as to where to get it from. But it is present in a range of both animal and plant sources:
Overall, protein plays a very important role in the body especially when it comes to performance and adapting to training.