We all know that protein is an important part of our diet but why exactly is this? An essential nutrient, protein helps our bodies to function properly by building and repairing tissue as well as making enzymes, hormones and other chemicals in our bodies. It also plays a crucial part in maintaining the strength of our bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
Consuming a diet that is high protein has a number of benefits including:
- Speeds up recovery after exercise
- Builds lean muscle
- Reduces muscle loss
- Helps to maintain a healthy weight by keeping you fuller for longer
How much protein should I be eating per day?
There tends to be a lot of confusion over how much protein we should be eating per day and this is probably because it largely depends on your gender, weight and activity levels. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) states that we should be eating 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To give you a rough guide, this is 56 grams of protein per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. You can also click here for more information.
How can I get more protein into my diet?
If you struggle to reach your daily protein intake, there are a number of great foods which are very rich in this nutrient. Meat is of course the most obvious contender. The likes of steak, ground beef, pork chops, chicken, turkey, tuna, halibut, salmon and even octopus can provide you with anything up to a whopping 26 grams of protein per 3oz serving.
If you’re going out for dinner, steak is a great choice because as well as being delicious, it easily provides you with half your protein intake for the day.
Although meat is a great source of protein, it really is a myth that it’s impossible for vegetarians to reach their daily quota. You can find plenty of protein-rich meat alternatives including Greek yoghurt, cheese, eggs, milk, nuts, beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa and believe it or not, even peas.
When we think about protein, for some reason we only tend to think of our main dish as this will be our main source. You can easily increase your protein intake by being more conscious of what you’re having on the side however. For example, whilst a side salad is a great way to pack in some essential vitamins, sprinkling it with some pine nuts or seeds adds another couple of grams of protein to the mix.
Although a lot of people nowadays try to avoid carbohydrates, they are actually an essential part of our diet. It’s never recommended that you completely remove an entire food group from your eating plan but if you do consume a lot of carbs, think about where you can cut down and replace them for more protein instead. For example, a bigger piece of chicken with fewer new potatoes saves calories, gives you more protein and will keep you fuller for longer.
You should try to get all of your protein through food but if you’re really struggling, protein powders can be a great addition to your diet. Contrary to popular belief, these shakes are not reserved just for body builders and many people now drink them including men, women, regular gym-goers and even those who aren’t very active at all. If you’re new to the world of protein powders, here is a handy guide to help pick one that’s right for you.