Are you worried that you’re eating too much protein? Or that you’re not getting enough? Or that you’re getting it from the wrong sources? Well, calm down. We’ve got some good advice here, and chances are you’re not doing too badly, anyway.
Meatless Monday is a great idea, for a whole lot of reasons. Cutting meat out of your diet entirely? Probably not necessary, but doing so absolutely doesn’t mean you’ll end up protein deficient. Think since you lift weights you need a ton more protein than your neighbor? Um, probably not.
A Protein Primer
Proteins are made of small units called amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds that contain structures made of elements including nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.
Animal products (and soy) are complete proteins. For the most part, plants offer incomplete proteins. Don’t jump to conclusions based on those definitions, though. There’s a lot more to the story.
We’ve written about protein before. Want to learn more? Start here.
A “complete protein” is one that is a good source of all nine of the essential amino acids. “Essential” amino acids are ones that your body can’t make. (To clarify in a very simple way, “non essential” proteins are essential too, but you don’t have to spoon them in.)
Where Should I Get Protein? How Much Protein Do I Need?
Have you heard that your body can only handle 20-30 grams of protein at a time? Have you been told that’s rubbish, and you need 50 grams after a tough workout? Either way…you’re kind of right.
The notion that your body can use only a certain amount of protein at a time is an oversimplification.
If you’re referring to the way the body uses protein to build and repair muscles (hello, body builders!), then yes… there does seem to be a limit to how much protein you can use to boost muscles in a given time. But the “extra” protein is hardly wasted. (Ok yes some does end up in your body’s waste products…but before that, it does your body a lot of good!)
Our bodies need protein for many vital functions, including clotting blood, balancing fluids and enzymes, and managing hormones. Not surprisingly, your body prioritizes those activities over things like building a six-pack. Go figure.
Oh Geez, Just What Should I Eat Already?
You’ve probably heard that “variety is the spice of life,” and it’s probably the key to a healthy diet, too. Research into nutrition is ongoing (thank goodness) and it unfortunately also constantly fuels new fad diets and bad advice.
One thing we know for sure is that your body works best when it has a variety of foods to use as fuel.
We also know that acidic foods (fruits and vegetables) help your body break down protein. And, it’s becoming increasingly certain that spreading protein consumption throughout the day is the best way to feed your body – blood, muscles, amino acids, enzymes, hormones, and all.
So what should you eat? Aim for getting about 15-30% of your daily calories from protein. Try to get most of your protein from a variety of lean sources (whether you’re a meat eater or not), including legumes, seeds and nuts, fish, eggs, and plants.
Spreading your protein consumption throughout the day is probably the best way to feed your body – muscles, amino acids, enzymes, hormones, insulin, and all. A good goal would be to eat some protein and plants with every meal, every day. Questions? Ask us!
Speaking of variety and spice, we love learning how spices can kick up our immune systems, help us burn more calories (I know, right?!) and generally improve our health. We aren’t medical professionals, but few doctors study nutritional science and think about foods and cooking as much as we do. Next time you’re in the studio, please strike up a conversation about healthy eating. It’s one of our favorite subjects! And good conversation helps those reps go by faster 😉