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Protein... is it important?

What is Protein?

Protein isn't just in shakes for bodybuilders. It is an important macronutrient – one of the major classes of nutrients, alongside carbohydrates, fats, and others.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are essential for our bodies to grow, repair & run smoothly. When we eat protein, our body breaks it down into these amino acids that can then join up to create others which are essential for various bodily functions, tasks and structures.

Protein is generally found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, beans and legumes. If you’re choosing proteins from animals, it’s always best to choose lean cuts of meat or fish to make sure that the fat content isn’t too high, as although animal products are great for protein, they can also contain higher amounts of fat than other foods.

You may also think of protein as a shake. Most people following a weight management program shouldn’t need to use protein shakes in their diet, as it could mean you are consuming unnecessary excess calories and cause weight gain!

Why is protein important?

Well, for starters, protein provides us with about 16% of our total daily energy, with the rest coming from carbohydrates, fats, fruit and vegetables. Protein can be found in every cell of our body – regardless of function. It is a vital macronutrient that helps our bodies to stay healthy and working; needed for pretty much every bodily process that we carry out.

It’s absolutely essential for building muscle mass (something that’s important when you begin to include more physical activity into your daily life), as well as being vital for growth and repair of cells. Generally, protein is a pretty big deal when it comes to nutrition.

In fact, if you don’t eat enough protein, you can end up quite poorly, as not only would you end up losing muscle mass, but a protein deficiency can also lead to anaemia and a slow metabolism – both of which can make you feel sluggish and tired.

So how much protein do I need?

Generally, it’s advised that adults should eat around 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight. The good news is that most UK people include more than this, so the chances are, you’re already eating enough protein for your muscles and cells. However, some people may need to take a look at incorporating more protein into their diet, such as those that follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Luckily, there are plenty of plant-based proteins that are available such as beans, peas, lentils, tofu, and various fruits and vegetables that are rich in protein.

According to the recommended daily amount of protein, if you weigh 200lbs (roughly 90kg or just over 14 stone), you would need to eat 67.5g of protein to make sure that you’re eating enough for your own individual needs. This doesn’t just mean eating 67.5g of chicken breast though, as each food contains different amounts of protein, and it’s the actual protein that you need. To get 67.5g of protein from a cooked chicken breast, you would need to eat roughly 225g a day.

You might find that you’re already eating enough protein from varied sources, or you might need to start adding more plant-based proteins to your diet in place of meat a few times a week.

But what foods have protein?

Most lean cuts of meat and fish, as well as some other animal products like eggs and milk, are a great source of protein but there are other important proteins that you should also include in your diet that come from plant sources, such as beans, legumes, peas and lentils are all good protein-rich foods that can also provide you with fibre.

Plant-based proteins, whilst generally lower in calories and fats than those that are derived from animals, tend to have lower amounts of protein per gram. However, they’re tasty with the right recipes.

The calorie content of your proteins depends on how the food is prepared. For example, frying will add extra calories to the meal as opposed to grilling or boiling.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you may want to look at other sources of plant proteins so that you can incorporate them into some recipes or snacks. For example, including some beans into your salads could help to boost your protein intake significantly compared to leaving them out of your meal.

Check out the table below on what foods are good for calories, fats & protein:

What if I have too much protein?

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t be consuming more than 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.

Most people don’t include too much protein in their diet, as foods that are rich in protein tend to be incredibly filling and keep you feeling satisfied for longer.

It's always worth keeping a food diary to track everything you eat when on a weight loss programme.

This can help you to identify where you could cut down on certain foods that you might be eating too much of, as well as helping you see what you aren’t getting enough of in your diet. Fine-tuning your meal plans to suit your nutritional needs can often help with weight management, particularly if you’ve been consuming too many calories.

Is protein good for weight loss?

There have been good signs behind incorporating more protein into your diet when attempting weight management. Foods that are rich in protein are generally recommended to anyone that’s following a weight management plan, as these types of foods are more likely to help you feel fuller for longer, and they can decrease cravings and snacking due to the satiety value of protein.

If you need to follow a special diet, you should speak to your GP or dietician about what you should be eating to get the best possible outcome from your weight management programme.

It’s also usually recommended that you substitute some dietary fat with protein if you’re trying to lose weight. This is because fats are often calorie-dense and can provide a lot of calories in just a small amount of food, whereas you can eat much more of low fat, protein-rich foods, often for fewer calories.

So there you have it! Protein can be a very useful food group to not only get a good source of calories, but to also keep you feeling more satisfied for longer.

Thanks for reading,

The Slim Transformation Team

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