Protein is a hot topic in the fitness/health/wellness world. So much so that protein is being added to just about everything. Ice cream, chips, cookies, and more. My coworker mentioned to me recently that she came across a recipe for high-protein vanilla frosting for baked goods. I’m sure you may be wondering “How much protein do I really need?” and “What are the best sources to get it?”
Let’s find out!
What is protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient for a functioning body. Proteins are part of each and every one of our cells and they’re needed for a wide variety of reasons. Protein is actually made up of amino acids, and when we eat protein it is broken back down in to amino acids through digestion.
Protein plays a role in:
- Building and repairing muscle, hair, skin, and nails
- Hormone and enzyme production
- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body
- Tissue repair (when you have a cut, sore, burn, etc).
Which foods contain protein?
Lots of foods contain protein – perhaps more than you may have thought! But protein doesn’t just mean meat. There are a variety of both animal and plant foods that are great sources of protein.
Animal sources: Meat, poultry, fish & seafood, dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese)
Plant sources: Legumes (beans, peas & lentils), nuts & seeds, nut & seed butters, tofu, soy milk, other soy products.
How much protein do I need?
The recommendation is that healthy adults require about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. So, a 180 lb man (82 kg) would require 65 grams of protein per day and a 145 lb woman (66 kg) would need 53 grams of protein per day.
That being said, your protein requirements do depend on your lifestyle. If you participate in regular, intense physical activity your requirements may be higher. Athletes expend more energy than the average person and therefore have increased nutrient needs to recover from intense exercise. This includes protein.
If you’re an athlete or you partake regularly in intense physical activity and you’re unsure of your requirements, I recommend consulting a dietitian for further, more personalized recommendations tailored to you and your activity/sport of choice.
How can I meet my protein requirements?
Great question. Interestingly enough, most of us already get enough protein day to day. Like I said, our cookies and cupcakes don’t really need to contain protein. But if you’re unsure if how and if you’re getting enough, I recommend:
- Aiming for approximately 15 to 20 grams of protein per meal and 5-10 grams per snack.
- Balance your plate. Remember the guidelines: 1/2 your plate vegetables/fruit, 1/4 your plate protein, 1/4 your plate carbohydrates (This is just a general guideline, it does not need to be adhered to strictly).
- After a workout, aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein in your post-workout meal or snack.
- Mix it up! Try new protein sources that you’re not so familiar with like tofu, tempeh, assorted seeds (I love hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds), cottage cheese, or lentils!
- Go for whole grains. Often, products like whole grain or sprouted breads contain more protein than their white bread counterparts. Try swapping quinoa for rice one night of the week – it’s also higher in protein!
If you’re wondering how many grams of protein are in certain foods, check out the list below:
Meat, poultry, fish & seafood:
- 3 oz. (75 grams) = 21 grams of protein
- 1.5 oz. (50 grams) cheese = 12 grams of protein
- 1 cup (250mL) milk = 9 grams of protein
- 3/4 cup yogurt = 7 grams of protein (double the protein if it’s Greek)
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese = 11.5 grams protein
- 2 large eggs = 12 grams protein
Legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils)
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas = 15 grams protein
- 1 cup cooked lentils = 19 grams protein
- 1/4 cup hummus = 3 grams protein
Nuts & Seeds
- 1/4 cup almonds = 7.5 grams protein
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds = 3 grams protein
- 2 tbsp peanut butter = 6 grams protein
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) tofu = 12 grams protein
- 1 cup soy milk = 8 grams protein
There you have it friends! I hope this helps.
As always, I’m here to answer your nutrition questions. If you’d like to find out more about nutrition and meeting your individual needs, click here to book with me!