SKATERS, let’s talk about protein…
What is protein?
Protein is one of your three major macronutrients (Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates), and it’s made up of groups of amino acids linked into peptide chains. Generally, we tend to overdo it on carbohydrates, and neglect our protein intake. Low protein intake often means we’re shorting ourselves on essential amino acids. When we’re missing any key nutrient (like essential amino acids) our bodies seek them out, leading us to overeat (often choosing foods that aren’t even going to give us that nutrient we crave).
There are 3 types of amino acids:
- Non-Essential – Made by the body;
- Conditional – Usually made by the body unless there are complicating factors like illness or stress; and
- Essential – Not made by the body, have to come from food
As you digest, the protein is broken down into smaller polypeptide chains and amino acids which replenish the plasma pool of amino acids in the bloodstream. The amino acids your bloodstream readily trade with proteins and amino acids in your cells, helping to produce important molecules.
Cool, but why do I need it?
Protein is critical for your metabolic activities. It pretty much helps you do everything: Amino acids make up your fibrous and contractile proteins, non-steroidal hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and antibodies. Also, without adequate protein (and fat) intake, your ratio of anabolic to catabolic hormones goes squirrely, and you’re unable to build or maintain muscle.
Simply put – Adequate protein intake is crucial for maintaining and improving your body composition (building and repairing your muscles!), promoting immune function, and helping you to feel full after eating.
Okay, Okay, protein is important. How much should I eat?
Here’s where traditional food guides and strength training wisdom diverge a bit. Traditional (read: oldey-timey food guides) wisdom says the average sedentary adult should eat 0.8 grams of protein per day per kilogram of body mass to avoid protein deficiency. But we’re not sedentary adults, are we? We’re athletes and therefore our protein requirements are higher. In the physique world, the rule is 1g protein/1lb body mass. Basically, you can start at 0.8g/kg (0.36/lb) and go all the way up to 1.4-2g/kg (0.64-0.9 g/lb) depending on your goals and level of activity. A portion of protein is usually 20-30g for women – and 20-30g is about the size of your palm. Double the intake if you’re male.
And where, pray tell, do I get this protein?
So, for example, a 150lb, reasonably athletic woman would want to take in anywhere from 95-135g of protein in a day .
What’s high in protein and won’t break the bank?
- Can of tuna: 40g/can (canned mackerel has 23g/100g serving)
- Whole eggs: 7g/egg
- Whey powder: 26-30g/scoop
- Ground beef or turkey: 25g/100g serving
- Milk: 30g/litre
- Chicken breast: 25g/100g serving
- Cottage cheese:12g/100g serving
This thing called PDCAA measures protein quality, and lists animal proteins highest, with your fastest utilized proteins being eggs and whey, slower being meat and casein. Basically anything that had, or would have had, a face will give you a decent boost in your protein.
That doesn’t mean you can’t increase your protein intake while meat-free or even while vegan. All of the following animal-product-free foods have a protein content greater than 7% per serving:
Buckwheat, oats, rye, millet, maize (corn), rice, wheat, bulgar, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, white beans, mung beans, chickpeas, cowpeas, lima beans, pigeon peas, lupines, wing beans, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts, cotton seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds
If you are meat-free, be sure to diversify – enjoy your veggies, seeds and nuts, but try to take in ½-1 cup of beans or legumes per day as well. Our bodies can only store so much protein at a time, so spread out your intake, and including before and after training to help support muscle repair.
There’s no way I can eat that much protein from real food – what about supplements?
Glad you’re so excited about protein! While whole foods are often the best way to get your required protein, there’s a whole world of protein supplementation to help you fill the gaps in your diet. So much so, that we’ve got a whole other post about it!
Go forth, eat protein, feed your muscles!
Questions? Comments? Got a recipe you’d love to share? Please leave a comment below!
Have a great week! xoxo Booty Quake & Lilith NoFair