You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to pay close attention to your protein intake. Not all proteins are created equal.
Are your proteins complete or incomplete? Proteins are composed of amino acids -20 of them in total. Non-essential amino acids are ones that your body make, while 9 essential amino acids are ones that you must get from your diet.
Proteins that contain a full set of the essential amino acids are considered “complete” proteins and are particularly effective at maintaining and building muscle tissue, something that is essential with age. Animal products, such as poultry, dairy, eggs, and seafood tend to be complete proteins but there are a handful of plant-based options as well, including soy, quinoa, hemp hearts, buck-wheat and chia seeds. Foods like beans, corn and nuts are “incomplete” since they lack one or more of essential amino acids.
To turn on and maximize protein synthesis in your body, you’ll want all the essential amino acids to be available in enough quantity at most of your meals. You can absolutely get essential amino acids you need from incomplete plant-based proteins as well; you just need to put a little more thought into your meals. You need to combine plant proteins in order to create a “complete” protein. For instance, legumes (beans) supply essential amino acid lysine which is low in many grains. But whole grains provide methionine which is low in many beans and lentils. So, having black bean and brown rice or quinoa salad for lunch will give our body a good dose of complete protein. Complete plant proteins such as quinoa and edamame deliver items fiber and antioxidants not found in steak and chicken.
With all this said, don’t fret too much about keeping an eye on our protein intake. If you eat a well-balanced diet that finds room for a variety of whole food based complete and incomplete proteins during the day, you should get all the amino acids that you require without needing to spike your oatmeal with protein powder.
Few nutrients are as important as protein. If you don’t get enough through your diet, your health and body will suffer.
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.
This amounts to:
56 grams per day for average sedentary man.
46 grams per day for the average sedentary women.
The right amount of protein for any one depends on their activity, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health.
Eating protein can increase the number of calories you burn by boosting your metabolic rate and reducing your appetite. Protein at around 25-30-% of total daily calories will boost metabolism up to 80-100 calories per day, compared to low protein diets.
Protein can help you gain muscle. To gain muscle you body must synthesize more muscle protein that it breaks down. If you want a lot of muscle, you need a greater amount of protein (and lift weights). If you want to hold on to the muscle, you may need to increase your protein intake when losing body fat.
A recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight or 2.2 grams of protein per kg.
If you are carrying a lot of body fat, using either your lean mass of your goal weight instead of your total body weight, is a good idea, as it’s mostly your lean mass that determines the about of protein you need.
Older adults should increase their protein needs up to 50% higher than the DRI, or, 0.45 – 0.6 grams per pound. This will prevent osteoporosis and sarcopenia.
If you have any questions about this information or want support with your health goals send me a message or comment below.
To your health,