Do you know what makes up a protein? Do we really need it? We’ve all heard of the high protein low carb diets like the ‘Atkins’ and ‘Dukan’ but what does this mean and more importantly will I lose weight if I do it?
WHAT IS PROTEIN?
Proteins are a nutrient made up of chemicals that when broken down in the body make up the essential amino acids that the body needs for good health. All our organs, including skin, muscles, hair and nails consist of protein.
They also make up our tendons, ligaments and collagen! The body needs protein to build and support these plus make enzymes, hormones and support other important functions within the body. Unlike carbohydrates, protein deficiency is real and your health and life will suffer without it! Read Part 1 of my ‘CARBS’ post HERE and Part 2 HERE!
There are 20 amino acids that the body requires for everyday function and 11 of them it can actually make itself. The other 9 must come from the food we eat. If we don’t consume enough protein from our diet, the body will break down its own muscles to get those essential amino acids.
WHERE DO I GET PROTEIN FROM??
Animal proteins such as red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy are complete proteins. This means they contain the 9 essential amino acids the body doesn’t produce itself. Plant proteins are usually missing at least one of the amino acids needed. This is why if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you have to eat a variety of foods to get all your essential amino acids.
Protein options for vegans or vegetarians (it’s ok I cook you lamb!) include peas, quinoa, nuts, chickpeas, tofu and chia seeds.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD I EAT?
How much protein you need to consume depends very much on your weight and activity levels. Generally you should consume at least .8g for every kilo you weigh. So if you weigh 80kg you should eat at least 64g of protein. You should also take into account your activity levels because you may need more if you’re doing lots of exercise.
You also need to realise that eating a 100 gram piece of chicken isn’t 100 grams of protein! Meat also contains water, fat and other fibres as well, it’s not 100% protein.
Here’s a list of my favourite sources of protein and how many grams they actually have;
⇒ chicken 100g = 27 g
⇒ steak 100g = 25g
⇒ egg 50g = 6g
⇒ tuna 100g = 30g
⇒ almonds x20 = 6g
As you can see it’s not difficult to eat enough protein in your day if you try to include some in every meal and snack. Pair it up with salads or veggies for complete meals! Obviously this list leans towards the non vegetarian and non vegans out there!
WHAT’S THE CONNECTION WITH PROTEIN AND WEIGHT LOSS??
We all basically know that to lose weight a number of things need to happen. First of all, you need to cut calories and/or burn more calories. What you need to be aware of is that maintaining muscle increases your metabolism as does the actual digestion of protein. The body burns more calories in digesting protein than carbs! Protein at around 25 -30% of your calories can burn up to 80 – 100 calories a day. Read more about that HERE.
Protein also reduces your appetite and cravings because it keeps you fuller for longer. That’s because it takes the body that much more time to digest it. I can tell you, a piece of chicken is going to keep you fuller for longer than a piece of bread! Protein is low GI (find out more in Part 1 of ‘Carbs. The Good The Bad The Ugly’ HERE) Insulin levels are kept minimal when eating protein which is key to weight loss.
You can lower the GI of a meal just by adding protein to it! So when I eat my scrambled egg on toast I have automatically reduced the GI of that meal a lot more than if I had just eaten jam on toast!
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