What is protein?
Protein is one of three macro nutrients which provide energy to the body – the other two are carbohydrates and fats. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories, the same as each gram of carbohydrate where fats contain 9 calories to a gram. A person’s body is made up of around 15-20g protein. From a chemical standpoint, protein is composed of amino acids which are organic compounds. Amino acids carry important functions without our body – they help to repair tissue and wounds, they remove waste in our bodies and help our bones and skin. The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass.
Why would I want to eat high protein?
There are many reasons as to why we might want to consume high protein foods. Firstly, high protein foods are great to incorporate into our diets because they take more time to digest in our bodies, giving us the feeling that we are full for longer. Because they take more time to digest in our bodies, this means that our bodies have to work harder to process them, meaning our bodies burn more calories to digest them. For anyone wanting to lose weight, eating lots of protein may form part of the answer (along with exercise and good nutrition).
Someone also may want to eat foods high in protein because protein is a key macronutrient to building muscle. In fact, your body can’t build muscle without protein as muscle is built entirely from digested protein. When we eat protein from foods like meat and fish, our bodies digestive system breaks this food down into amino acids. Our bodies then use this amino acid for a number of different things, including building muscle. It has been proven that the best time to send amino acid to the muscles is post work out – which is why you often see people consuming protein shakes right after their gym session. Of course, eating protein alone won’t build muscle; this has to be paired with training in the gym and eating well.
What protein is good for the body?
The best sources of protein are lean meats, fish, dairy and beans. We do have to remember however that not all protein sources are equal. For example, whilst whole grains can be a great source of protein, they don’t contain all of the amino acids that your body requires in order to build lean muscle. Complete proteins are lean meats (e.g. chicken, turkey, and beef) and dairy that is low fat. Not necessarily suitable for all diets, vegetarians have to think a little more and pair incomplete protein sources together in order to get a complete protein.
People often turn to supplements to help them get their daily protein intake in and it can be cost effective too. The most common supplements that people may incorporate into their diets are Whey protein, or Soy protein. Whey protein is usually found in the powder form that you typically see people having in their protein shakes. There are two types of Whey protein: Whey Protein Isolate and Whey Protein Concentrate. Soy protein tends to be consumed by vegetarians and is extracted from the soybean plant. It is one of the only plant-based proteins that are considered to be of high quality, incorporating all of the essential amino acids.
Read more about the different types of proteins.
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How much protein do I need?
There is no one set rule for how much protein a person should be eating and it very much depends on your lifestyle and daily routine. If you’re looking to eat a high protein diet, experts suggest that for every pound of your body weight, you should be eating between 0.5g – 1g of protein. If you are very active, aim towards the 1g of protein per pound, and if you are less active, aim towards the lower end. If you’re looking to lose weight, a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that 25-30% of your daily food intake should be protein.
What happens if I eat too much protein – will I gain weight?
Some may believe that eating too much protein will cause the excess to be stored as fat but studies have shown otherwise. It has been proven that your body is not efficient at making fat from excess protein, so excess protein is mostly used as energy instead. If however, you’re eating lots of meat that is high in protein but is fatty, this can cause weight gain. Stick to lean foods and wholefoods to get your protein intake. Whatever changes you make in diet, ensure that they are sustainable. If you plan just eat high protein for a few weeks and cut down on everything else, when you go back to eating ‘normally’ it is likely that you may gain back those pounds you thought you had dropped.
How can I get extra protein into my diet?
This is quite simple – you can opt for foods that have higher protein content (e.g. choose The Protein Bread Co’s bread over normal bread) or alternatively you could add in a protein shake to your daily routine, or add a scoop of protein into your yoghurt/porridge. If you’re looking to increase protein through food, opt for complete proteins include lean meats, fish eggs to name a few. If you’re looking to increase your protein through protein powder, look for one that is low in sugar.
What are ‘complete proteins’?
Complete proteins are related to amino acids – the building blocks of protein. Some amino acids the body can create itself and these are known as non-essential amino acids. There is however nine amino acids that the body can’t create itself, these are called essential amino acids. The easiest way to get these essential amino acids into our bodies is by eating them. For a food to be classified as a complete protein, the food must contain all nine of these essential amino acids. Complete proteins are foods like meat, fish and dairy.
What complete proteins are suitable for vegetarians?
There are many complete sources of protein that are suitable for vegetarians – quality protein doesn’t have to come from lean meats. There are some foods alone that are complete proteins such as quinoa, buckwheat and Soy (e.g. Tofu). Combining two foods together can provide you with a complete protein too because when legumes e.g. lentils, beans and peanuts are combined with grains like rice and wheat, complete proteins are created. Example combinations would be rice and beans, peanut butter and bread or hummus and pitta.
Can I still eat the foods I love on a high protein diet?
Yes! Absolutely. You should never cut the foods you love out of your diet as food is there for enjoyment – but having them in moderation is a good idea. I would recommend using the 80:20 principle, where you eat well/healthy for 80% of the time, and then 20% of the time you eat the foods that you enjoy that aren’t necessarily the healthiest.
What about alcohol?
Yes, you can still drink alcohol on a high protein diet, but drinking too much may hinder the progress of weight loss/muscle gain in the gym. Drinking high volumes can also increase (sometimes even double) your calorie intake in a day – so all those chocolates you’ve resisted during the week has technically been undone by drinking lots of alcohol. It’s also the aftermath of a drinking session that can be damaging if you crave and eat junk foods. If you are going for a drinking session, click here for some smart swaps to make. (Add link)
Why should I consume the Protein Bread Co. products in my high protein diet?
The Protein Bread Co. products contain Whey Protein Concentrate with 80% protein which is sourced from Warrnambool Cheese and Butter on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. It is made up of 80.2% protein, 6.1% carbs and 5.7% fats (which are great macros). The Protein Bread Co. products also have a great ingredients list – no hidden sugars or ingredients that you can’t pronounce so they are absolutely suitable for a healthy high protein diet.
The range of products also reflects that there is something for everyone, and making small changes with these products in your diet, can really make a change. Why not try swapping your daily bread for the Protein Bread Co. bread? The bread per serve contains only 1.5g carbs (which is less than 95% less carbs than regular wholegrain bread) and 17g protein! 17g of protein means nothing…what does this look like? 17g of protein is equivalent to around 150g of cottage cheese, 155g of Tofu, 75g turkey breast or 75g tinned tuna!
Complete (protein) Conclusion
Hopefully this article has given you a little more knowledge about protein, why it’s important in our diets and what role it plays in our diets. If you’re thinking about incorporating more protein into your diet, start by making small and sustainable changes and think about what you’re trying to achieve by doing this. The Protein Bread Co.’s pancakes are a great place to start by the way…