Pretty straight to the point topic today - and it's all about Protein!
- Why you need it.
- How much you need.
- How to make hitting your quota easier!
Firstly, what I think I need to do is highlight the importance of protein and hopefully that will create some "buy in" & give you the impetus to actively go about hitting your targets.
The name alone gives you a clue - PROtein. Derived from the greek word Protas meaning "of primary importance".
So why do we need protein?
All diets that consist of low protein almost always fail. From a purely aesthetic point of view its almost impossible to encourage an environment to shift fat without the good stuff.
Low protein diets encourage hormonal issues that impair fertility, lower libido, promote skin, hair and nail issues amongst many more.
One of the primary reasons low carbohydrate diets seem to work is actually not so much to do with the low carb aspect at all, but conversely more to do with the increased protein intake.
We need protein to repair, gain and recover. It helps us maintain metabolic rate while dieting and also has the added benefit of costing you more energy to digest, known as the Thermic effect of food or TEF. Simply digesting protein can cost you 30% of the calories you consumed where as carbohydrates and fats cost a mere 5%.
But how much protein do you need?
I'm sure you've seen some of the crazy high recommendations in the past and even the scare mongering news stories in the tabloids telling you high protein diets will make your kidneys fall out your nostrils.
But the thing to remember is that its more a case of getting it "about" right most of the time than trying to get it perfect some of the time. The answer is - you just need enough.
The most common reccomendation seems to be 0.82 grams per lb of body weight or usually just rounded up for ease of calculations and to cover the bases to 1g per lb of body weight - either way, a little more doesn't hurt.
So high protein is good, but you just probably dont need to go crazy. At some point you reach demished returns as you probably wont be able to make use of the extra protein anyway - unless you were on steroids that elevate protein synthesis - plus the extra calories you consume via protein that aren't required may actually just eat into valuable calories you could be consuming via carbohydrates or fats, so balance is key.
But i've heard high protein diets are bad for my kidneys?!
OK, back in the eighties researchers studied the amount of blood your kidneys could filter per minute, known as glomerular filtration rate or GFR for short. And guess what, they found that a higher intake of protein increased GFR, and "clearly" they elluded to the fact a higher GFR means the kidneys are in trouble.
I know they do like to jump to conclusions, but its good to ask questions. Those who ask different questions get different answers right?
Although increased protein did infact increase GFR as confirmed by some Dutch researchers, it didn't affect kidney function and there is no published data since to suggest otherwise.
So how much Protein is "about" right then?
Personally I think the more levels of complexity we add the further away from our goals we travel, so for simplicity purposes I like Alan Aragons recommendation, it keeps things simple and ensures you get just enough but don't lose sight of the bigger picture, it goes like this;
"eat your target body weight in grams of protein daily."
E.G. "if you’re a chubby 200 pounds and want to be a lean 180, then have 180 grams of protein a day.
Likewise, if you’re a skinny 150 pounds but want to be a muscular 180."
When you combine that with how many calories a day you require to hit your goal it cuts most of the confusion induced headaches out.
How to hit you protein quota;
1. Meat - The obvious choice so i'm not going to spend long here. Meat and fish are approximately between 15% an 30% protein across the board, usually 20%. If you stick with the 20% you cant really go wrong.
If you have a portion of meat or fish (approx 150g) 3 times a day you've hit anywhere between 90g and 135g of protein.
Now that the obvious one is out the way lets look at some of other ways we can bolt on a little extra protein to our diet from places you may not have thought about.
2. Stuff that can go with meat - Most meals follow some kind of plate plan, usually like this (unless your a low carber, in which case i'm sorry!)
Well we've covered the meaty part already, but what if we could just crank a few extra grams of protein throughout the day just by choosing some different foods to go with our meat, or even to be consumed alone.
Lentils - not just for vegan soup lovers.
Lentils can make a great positive impact on a diet, they have a surprising amount of protein in them at around 26% plus they contain a whacking fiber content which make them an awesome food source especially while dieting, as important as protein is, control of hunger is right up there and fiber is key in this regard. Lentils are easy to prepare and make a protein packed side dish or to thicken a soup during the winter that is also rich in important minerals too.
Quinoa - "KEEENWAA"
OK. Glutaphobics you can open your eyes its only Quinoa. He's gluten free and contains around 14% protein with a full essential amino acid profile, not only that, it too is also packed with fiber and plenty of minerals.
Quinoa is a great change of pace to the usual rice or pasta as it contains more protein and nutrients as well, so get quinoa'ing (yes of course its a real word)
Beans Beans are good for your heart the more you eat, the more Protein you get.
As with all beans they contain a high fiber content, but black beans contain some of the highest protein content of all the beans at around 21 grams per 100g. They are low in fats, moderate in carbohydrate and are very versatile so they can be used in a serious amount of dishes, especially chilli!
A tin of Mushy Pea's (300g) contains around 18g of protein (and they're also cheap) which is probably irrelevant because I bet you have a tin in the cupboard anyway, probably dating back to the 70's.
Okay... So they are not that packed with protein compared to some of the others but they're mushy peas so any excuse is valid.
Here's an extra one for the Vegetarians.
Meat alternative - Seitan - pronounced "saytan"
Like I said, this one is for the vegetarians, but its not to be sniffed at by you carnivores out there either. This stuff is literally packed to the rafters at 75g of protein per 100g!
But hang on... there is a but - its also known as wheat gluten!
Yep, you heard me right - GLUTEN
If you're celiac you should clearly stay away, but thats the same as peanut butter, if you have a nut allergy stay away from that too.
But it does have some decent qualities. Its high in stuff like iron and calcium but low in sodium, fats and carbs so its a pretty efficient way to add some protein - especially for vegetarians without eating into your other quotas.
Try these recipes here http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/how-to-make-perfect-seitan
Stuff to hold meat - breads, wraps and bagels.
I know people tend to stay away from bread these days, but if you can have more than a sniff of carbohydrates, breads and wraps aren't that bad as long as - like anything - you don't over consume more than your allotment and also bearing in mind that you are not gluten or wheat intolerant.
Here's some options I found:
- Aldi white bloomer - per 2 slices you get 4.6g fat, 54g carbs and a not so bad 10.6g of protein
- Co-op plain totilla wraps - per wrap you get 4g fat, 32g carbs, 5g protein.
- NYC bagels - per bagel gives you 1.2g fat, 44g carbs, 9.3g protein.
Plus you can now get higher protein versions of most breads, pasta's and cereals etc such as Dr Zacs high Protein Bread which comes out at 5g fat, 30g carbs and 30g protein per 2 slices.
There you have it. That should keep you going for a while.