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protein diet guide

14th September 2015 by Jess

Everything you need to know about getting enough protein in your diet.

ellie walking in gym kit with salted fudge & peanut cookie

What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient needed by our bodies, along with carbohydrates, fibre and healthy fats. It’s made up of amino acids, the building blocks of our entire bodies and an essential part of our overall health.

As you can see, protein isn’t just for gym bunnies - without an adequate protein intake, our bodies don’t function nearly as well. It keeps you performing at a high level both in and out of the gym.

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Why do you need protein in your diet?

30% of our muscle mass is made up of proteins only found in our food - our bodies can’t make it themselves. When we exercise, these proteins are broken down, so it is important to replenish them, to make sure your body and your muscles recover properly.

The good news is that there’s loads of tasty natural ways of getting protein in your diet, without relying on powders and shakes. The best way to nourish your body with protein is by balancing it with our other macronutrients throughout the day, including some form of protein with every meal and snack.

How much protein should you be getting?

How much protein you need depends on lots of factors, but one of the most important is your activity level.

If your daily activity involves moderate exercise or lasts for under 30 minutes, the recommended amount is about 0.8g per kg of your body weight. So if you weigh 68kg you should be getting at least 54g of protein in the course of your day.

[your weight in kg] x 0.8 = g of protein

If you regularly do high intensity training, heavy lifting or long endurance exercise, you could need anything up to about 2g per kg, to prepare your body and make sure you have enough energy to reach that finish line and recover efficiently afterwards.

[your weight in kg] x 2 = g of protein

Nick's top down lifestyle GIF

Is it possible to eat too much protein?

If you overeat protein, the extra is converted to sugar or fat. This might sound like a negative, but consider the fact that 30% of the energy in protein goes towards digestion, whilst only 8% of it gets converted to sugar and 3% to fat.*

A lot of people worry that a high protein intake harms the kidneys - this is a myth. In healthy people, normal protein intakes pose little to no health risk. Plant proteins are especially safe.

*source: Tappy L. Thermic effect of food and sympathetic nervous system activity in humans. Reprod Nutr Dev 1996;36:391–397.

source of plant protein infographic

Is plant protein healthier?

Choosing plant-based protein offers umpteen different health benefits. By including a varied nut, seed, bean and grain based diet, you can get a great level of natural protein into your body to fill your nutritional needs.

The key is knowing the most protein rich sources and how much you need so here’s a handy checklist for you for 10 of the most popular plant based proteins…

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Should you be getting protein before or after workouts?

We all have completely different genetic makeups, fitness goals (i.e. fat loss, competition, muscle building, maintenance, or general health), workouts, lifestyles, and metabolisms so any information you read on exercising for workouts need to be taken with a pinch of salt!

As a starting point, the following rules apply, but know that your body is unique and the best way to tell if these principles are working for you is to try them and listen to your body. Then you can course-correct.

The answer to all these questions will all steer your meal choices and pre and post-workout fuel.

top down shoes bag gym snacks

Depending on your chosen workout, you might not even need a pre or post-workout aid. If your exercise consists of low-moderate pace walking, cycling or swimming for under 30 minutes then your body can likely hang on until your next meal.

If on the other hand, your bout of exercise involves heavy weight lifting, HIIT, circuit training or any other high intensity exercise or your goal is to gain muscle, then having a pre-workout will ensure you have ample energy and can recover efficiently afterwards.

Click here for our nutritionist’s top workout snacks

Summary: Protein is best shared out throughout your daily meals, you only need to boost your protein around high intensity workouts or long periods of exercise.

Protein digestion tip

There are a couple of foods that help digest and break down protein: pineapple and papaya. They both contain bromelain which is an enzyme that helps our digestion when breaking down protein!

Remember that many legumes, beans, peas and nuts can be made more digestible by pre-soaking for 7-24 hours.

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High protein recipe ideas

The best recipes balance protein with other macro and micronutrients, helping you get sufficient protein throughout the day as part of a balanced diet.

One of the most important parts of a nourishing diet is that you enjoy what you’re eating, so don’t force yourself to eat tofu if you’re not enjoying it! Experiment with cooking at home and collect your favourite recipes to make the most of your food and make it a long term, sustainable healthy lifestyle.

We’re kicking you off with our favourite 20 recipes for home and work. Find breakfasts, lunches and snacks that are easy to make and delicious to eat.

more recipe ideas

Dining out ideas

It can be difficult to stick to your resolutions when you’re eating out at a restaurant or enjoying a takeaway. Here are some food choice tips to help you make better choices:

Jess flexing with baobab

We’ve made it easy to get more tasty protein into your day to help maintain healthy muscle growth. Support your active lifestyle with delicious protein snacks, created by our taste experts and portioned by me to give you a handy source of protein whenever you need a tasty boost.

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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess is the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices.

view all posts by Jess

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