We all know that protein is crucial to any diet, but how much do you really know about the protein you are eating, or not eating? How much protein do you need in a day, and why does your protein source matter? What does protein do for your overall health?
Chances are, you’ve probably asked yourself one of these questions.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients along with carbohydrates and fats. Macronutrients are the building blocks of your diet, and it is important to hit the right ratio of each macronutrient to maintain adequate nutrition. Ideally, you want to be consuming protein throughout the day.
To understand what we mean by complete protein, you need to first understand the difference between essential and non-essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
There are 20 amino acids that your body needs, 9 of which are known as “essential.” Essential amino acids are not able to be produced by your body and must be consumed through diet. Because your body cannot produce these amino acids, it is “essential” you get them by consuming the right foods.
The other 11 amino acids are non-essential, meaning your body can create them on their own and does not have to rely on your diet.
The Importance of Protein in Your Diet
Consuming protein is vital to your health, as it keeps your body functioning properly. It plays a role in every cell in your body, helping your body build, repair, and maintain itself. Your body requires protein for (1, 2, 3, 4, 5):
- Muscle growth and regeneration
- Immune function
- Skin health
- Blood sugar regulation
- Energy production
- Hormone synthesis
If you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, don’t skip on the protein! It’s not just important for your overall health, but it also needed if you are trying to stay in shape or lose weight. It can help you recover after a hard workout, build lean muscle, and curb hunger, keeping you fuller, longer.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Everyone is different. We have different body types, lifestyles, dietary needs, health concerns, and goals. There is so much that makes each one of us unique that it is only reasonable our protein requirements would differ from person to person. However, there is a general guideline you can follow.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for healthy adults is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound. However, there are some factors that may impact the amount of protein a person needs. Athletes, the elderly, and those on a strict vegan diet may require more protein.
Athletes: If you are an athlete or someone who trains hard, you should up your protein consumption to about 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.54 – 0.90 grams of protein per pound) of body weight.
Elderly: Those over the age of 65 years should consume between 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.54 – 0.90 grams of protein per pound) of body weight, in an effort to combat the decreasing rates of muscle protein synthesis associated with aging.
Vegans/Vegetarians: Because of the varying amino acid content in plant proteins, need about 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.5 grams of protein per pound) of body weight.
It is not only important to evaluate and be mindful of how much protein you consume in a day, but also how often you eat it throughout the day. When you consume protein throughout the day, it can help balance your blood sugar.
Balanced meals, composed of healthy carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein can help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. This can help improve your health and keep your energy levels up without those dreaded energy crashes.
Additionally, this long term blood sugar maintenance is key for fending off the risk of developing type II diabetes, one of the most commonly diagnosed chronic diseases in the United States.
Signs of Protein Deficiency and Overconsumption
Protein deficiency is rare in the United States, but it could occur in those with increased protein requirements, such as the elderly, athletes, and those on a vegan or plant-based diet. Some signs of protein deficiency include hair loss, brittle nails, and flaky skin. In elderly individuals, protein deficiency often initially appears as a loss of muscle mass. Another common sign of protein deficiency can be loss of bone mineral density, which increases the risk of fractures.
Although protein deficiency is rare, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be paying attention to how much protein you consume, or what type of protein you consume.
It is also possible to consume too much protein. Generally, people can tolerate up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.90 grams of protein per pound.
Negative effects of over-consumption tend to happen when someone is consuming 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram (or 1.6 grams of protein per pound) of body weight. Too much protein can cause negative side effects, such as indigestion, dehydration, fatigue, nausea, mood changes, headaches, and diarrhea.
Not Just Protein – Complete Protein
The consumption of protein is essential, but even more important is making sure you get complete protein.
So, what do we mean when we talk about complete protein?
Complete proteins are sources of protein that contain all of the essential amino acids.
Because each of the essential amino acids contributes to certain functions within the body, as discussed above, it is necessary to make sure that you are consuming complete proteins or a varied diet of many incomplete proteins.
This will ensure that you are consuming all of the necessary individual amino acids that your body requires.
Complete Protein on a Carnivorous Diet
For those that have no dietary restrictions and consume a carnivorous diet, complete protein sources are easier to find, so you won’t have to search too far. It also is one of the highest quality proteins you can consume simply because they contain all the amino acids your body needs.
You can get a complete source of protein from:
Although animal protein can be an easy source of quality protein, some products, such as red meat, it can raise some health concerns, such as an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Complete Protein for a Vegetarian / Plant-Based Diet
Those following a vegetarian or otherwise plant-based diet, who do not consume meat, must seek out other sources of complete protein. Because someone following this diet consumes very few animal products, the options are limited.
Some great sources of complete protein are eggs and dairy. You should also be sure you are consuming a variety of different plant-based proteins, such as:
- Nutritional yeast
- Whole grains
Complete Protein on a Vegan Diet
For those that follow a strict vegan diet and do not consume any animal products, finding a complete source of protein can be a bit more difficult. This is because plant sources of protein do not contain all of the 9 essential amino acids.
However, while each source of plant-based protein does not contain all of the essential amino acids, they do contain some. Therefore, it is important for vegans to eat a variety of plant-based sources of protein. This variety will also help you consume all of the essential amino acids throughout the day.
As with vegetarians, good sources of protein include legumes, nuts, seeds, nutritional yeast, soy, and whole grains. However, protein is present in some plant foods you might not expect including, spinach, peas, and even artichokes.
Supplement Your Protein with Detox Organics
No matter what type of diet you are following, a quality protein supplement like Detox Organics Daily Superfood is a great way to get your daily recommended dose of protein. Be sure you are consuming the right amount of protein throughout the day to achieve the best results for your health.
Detox Organics is a vegan protein sourced from hemp, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, and quinoa. It is also one of the cleanest protein supplements on the market, meaning there are no artificial ingredients. This vanilla supplement is also dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
Adding Detox Organics Daily Superfood to your diet is easy. Simply mix it with your favorite milk, yogurt, or bake it into your favorite treat!
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