The Truth About Protein

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Every human needs to consume three macronutrients in order to survive, and more importantly, thrive. These include carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But what does protein do and why is it so often misunderstood? 

Protein is a macronutrient found in a wide variety of foods that helps you build muscle, stay healthy, and feel full. Combined with the other macronutrients, carbohydrates, and fat, this macronutrient will help you achieve your nutrition and health goals. So… why is there so much confusion about protein and its relation to the others macronutrients? The answers might surprise you.

plate of raw salmon

How does protein function in the body?

Protein is useful for many functions in the body. This is because it is made up of small elements called amino acids that each perform a different action and can even compound to create large-scale change.

Most notably, protein is useful in the formation and constant maintenance of muscle. Every second of every day, your body is breaking down its muscle stores and builds them back up. Who is there to help your muscles grow over and over again? Protein! You can thank protein for your muscle strength, as well as the strength of other muscles such as your heart. 

On the other hand, protein can be used to aid in processes like digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals, making energy, balancing fluids, and even helping your immune system [1]. 

As you can see, protein is incredibly important because it plays a role in so many areas of our lives. Without it, we simply couldn’t function! 

Protein is found in a wide variety of foods that are part of an overall healthy diet. It is important to note that some foods are complete proteins – meaning they contain every essential amino acid, whereas other food sources are incomplete. 

Ultimately, a mix of both complete and incomplete protein sources will help you fill up on your protein needs!

mother and son mixing eggs

How can I get protein in my diet?

Animal foods such as poultry, meat, fish, dairy, and even eggs are all complete protein sources. They contain amino acids such as isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, cysteine, tyrosine, histidine, and arginine [2]. 

When determining your meals and menu, consider combining protein, fat, and carbohydrate sources at every meal. For example, a balanced breakfast may include eggs or egg whites, sauteed vegetables, and a sprinkle of feta cheese. By combining protein alongside fat and carbohydrates, you’ll not only fuel your body – but feel great, too. 

On the other hand, plant-based sources of protein with complete essential amino acid profiles include soy and soy-based products (tofu, edamame), quinoa, and buckwheat. Incomplete plant-based protein sources include grains such as amaranth and nuts/seeds such as hemp seeds, peanut butter, or chia seeds. 

When considering plant-based options, a simple lunch or dinner option might include a sheet pan of roasted chickpeas, edamame, and fresh vegetables on top of a bed of quinoa. 

It might feel difficult to consume adequate protein, but with Nutriology’s flexitarian-based approach to meal planning, we help you plan your meals for success so you can achieve your protein goals while eating great-tasting food.

meat and vegetable stir fry

What is the truth about protein supplements like powders or bars?

Luckily, consuming extra protein supplements in the form of powders or bars is not often necessary, but a great option to have. While many products market themselves as necessities, the average adult can usually consume enough protein from their regular diet alone – no supplementation needed. 

Complete sources of protein like those listed above can contribute a good deal of protein. For example, 6 oz of cooked chicken breast contains approximately 50 grams of protein. Even tofu, a plant-based complete protein, provides 14 grams per 6 oz cooked serving. 

While protein powders or bars may provide a ton of protein in a small package, they can also come with excess sugar, inflammatory oils, artificial flavoring, or even overall unhealthy ingredients. This is why it is important to read your nutrition facts label not only for the amount of protein included in each product, but for the ingredients altogether. Protein can be just as important as overall food quality. 

However, if you are able to find high-quality protein powders or bars that are convenient, be sure to keep them on hand for long travel days, snacks at the office, or even when you’re simply looking for an extra way to meet your protein goals. You can also consider keeping items like beef sticks, cheese, nuts, and seeds on hand for any situations that arise. 

The truth about protein is surprising, and while food marketing may have you reaching for pricey products, your diet alone may provide exactly what you need! 

almonds on a plate and scattered on the table

Can I consume too much protein?

Like anything in life, moderation is key! Overconsumption of protein is risky and, depending on your nutrition choices, it can occur. 

Symptoms of excess protein intake can include:

  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Inability to lose weight or weight gain
  • Bad breath
  • Kidney damage or disease
  • Heart disease
  • And more [3]

This is why it is important to know your specific nutrition needs for all of the macronutrients, including protein!

woman writing a meal plan

How can I calculate my protein needs and track my macronutrients?

At Nutriology.Io, we calculate your daily protein needs through our customized software system. No need to guess your protein goals, we’ll do the heavy lifting for you so you can know how much protein to consume to meet your nutrition and fitness goals. 

However, if you’re interested in calculating your own protein needs, know that the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your own body weight. 

The RDA is a minimum, meaning that this amount of protein is what you should be consuming at a minimum every single day. A multitude of factors, like your activity level, and nutrition or fitness goals can increase your recommended daily intake. 

For example, a 150-pound female may require a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. If she is more active, and trying to build more lean body muscle, this female may require more protein. Are you interested in learning more about protein and other macronutrients? Check out our free e-guide here so you can dive in with 10 recipes and a week of at-home workouts!


Citations

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/functions-of-protein
  2. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/amino-acids-complete-protein-1078.html
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/too-much-protein

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