Thank you again to everyone for their health questions. Sorry for the delay with this first blog to answer them...there were quite a few different questions about protein so we’ll split them up and answer them in groups :)
First of all it’s important to make a couple of things clear as there is a lot of contradictory information in the various media these days.
Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are names for groups of nutrients we need from our food. The body needs them all in order to function well. None of these groups of nutrients are evil and none of them are more important than the others – it’s just about getting the ratios right and eating proper food to obtain them as opposed to highly refined food products made in a laboratory/factory. Most naturally occurring foods contain significant amounts of 2 or 3 types of nutrients e.g. chicken contains mostly protein and fat whereas potatoes contain mostly carbohydrate and protein.
So what foods are high in protein? The obvious ones you will know of are meat, fish, chicken, dairy and eggs. Other good sources of protein are legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils, tofu and tempeh; whole grains e.g. oats and brown rice; nuts and seeds. Getting your protein from a combination of all these different foods is the best way to ensure you are getting all your essential amino acids (more on that another time) and you’ll be eating a wide range of different vitamins and minerals too – which are needed to metabolise your protein!
Ok, enough rambling, now to your actual questions!
Q1. How much protein do I need in a day?
0.8 - 1g/kg body weight/day so if you weigh 80kg you need 64-80g protein. So what does that look like in terms of food?
Here is an example of a daily food intake with 82g protein:
Porridge oats 1/3 cup (raw) cooked with 1/2 cup water & ½ cup full cream milk
Frozen blueberries ½ cup
Honey 1 teaspoon
LSA (Linseed, Sunflower seed & Almond meal) – 1 tablespoon
Banana x 1
Brazil nuts x 2
Almonds x 8
Dates, medjool x 2
Brown rice & bean salad – 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ cup chopped parsley, ½ cup cannellini beans, 1 stick celery chopped, ½ Lebanese cucumber chopped, ½ red pepper chopped, handful green leaves chopped
Green tea x 1 cup
Dark choc x 2 pieces (20g)
Fruit Salad - Watermelon – 1 cup chopped, Pear – 1 chopped, Mandarin x 1
Yoghurt, natural – 2 tablespoons
Mashed potato & sweet potato with milk and butter – 1 cup
Steamed vege – brocolli x 5 florets, green beans x 10, spinach x ½ cup cooked
Fish (125g raw weight) – BBQ/grilled
Marinade – olive oil 1 tablespoon, lemon juice 1 tablespoon, fresh dill 1 tablespoon, black pepper
Are you surprised?
As you can see there is only one medium serving of fish, no cheese or eggs, no protein shakes and we still hit the protein requirement…summary = it’s easy to meet your protein requirement if you eat balanced meals and SMALL amounts of high protein foods!
Q2: How does this change with exercise?
Not much! It does depend on the type of exercise and the volume of training per week. For the average Jo who exercises recreationally, there is no increase in protein requirements. By recreationally, I mean 30-60mins 3-5 times per week of average intensity. For someone training for long-distance running races e.g. half or full marathons they may increase a little and for an athlete training frequently for a sport like football it increases to about 1.5g/kg/day.
Ultimately, very few people need to use protein shakes to obtain their protein requirements. However, there is a little trick that can enhance your muscle recovery from an intense training session. Within 30mins of finishing training, have a snack that contains some carbohydrate and protein such as a 150g single serve natural yoghurt or 50g nuts + banana. The carbohydrate from the banana helps to pull the protein from the yoghurt/nuts into the muscle for recovery but there is a small window of time when this is effective so you may need to take something you can eat on the drive home from training.
See this website from the Australian Institute of Sport for more detailed info on the requirements for athletes:
I've deliberately kept this as concise as possible so I don't bore you to tears. If you have more questions from reading this please email them to me so I can answer them directly.
Hmmm, I'm hungry now ... off to get my nuts and fruit!
Next time...how do our protein requirements change with age?