There are many different components to a healthy diet. And in the ever-evolving science of nutrition, it seems like it can be difficult to pin down just how much of any particular nutrient, vitamin, or mineral you really need to stay healthy.
At the top of this list is Protein. If you are someone who works out regularly or who plays sports which require a consistent level of exertion and you pay attention to your health requirements, you’ve likely considered how much protein you really need to stay healthy. There is no short supply of energy supplements on the market that come with protein promises for the casual athlete. But do you really need these? How much protein does the average person even need in the first place?
In this article, we’ll take a brief look at the issue of protein and diet. We’ll help you nail down just how much protein you should be taking in and where the best sources of protein can be found. This will help give you a good idea of how this important component of a healthy diet can aid in building your muscles and maintaining your body’s peak performance.
What Does Protein Do for the Body?
Before we look at how much protein you need, it is first important to understand just what protein is and what it does for the body. Without going into complex chemistry, a protein is basically a chain of amino acids. These chains function as an essential building block for important structures within the body. Proteins, therefore, are the very components that make up the fabric of such things as muscles, enzymes, and bones.
Therefore, you have to have a proper amount of protein in your diet in order that your body can build these tissues. This is important both because the body needs proteins to grow and because existing proteins need to be replaced as they break down. So, having the proper amount of protein in your diet is critical for everyone, not just the casual or even professional athlete.
Can You Have Too Much Protein?
This raises the immediate question: if protein is so essential for your body, is it possible to have too much protein? The answer is a clear “yes.” The body can only use so much protein or needs a particular amount to build muscle and the like at any given time.
In fact, because of their general unhealthy diets, most Americans are indeed consuming too much protein. This is coupled also with an excess amount of complex carbohydrates and too few healthy fatuous foods so that the whole combination is a recipe for disaster.
Excess amounts of protein can contribute to many negative effects on your overall well-being and health such as higher glucose levels which promote gaining weight and storing fat. Excessive protein can also cause stress on kidneys, can deplete your bones of minerals, and cause dehydration.
What Is the Ideal Amount of Protein for the Casual Athlete?
So, there is a danger of having both too much and too little protein in your diet. So, how much is the right amount? As is often the case in issues dealing with nutrition, there is not exact amount that every person should take. It will vary depending on several factors, like your current weight and general exercise routine.
We can, however, give you some general guidelines to follow in order to make sure you are getting a healthy dose of protein every day.
For the average person, you need to consume anywhere from 30-70 grams of protein every day. This is derived by calculating around ½ gram for every pound of lean body mass. If you do not know your lean body mass, most doctors or nutritionists have devices that use technology to give you an exact measurement.
If, however, you do not have access to such devices, you can do some quick measurements and enter those into any number of online calculators. This will give you your body fat percentage. Subtracting that percentage from 100 will give you your lean body mass. Now, simply multiply that by ½ and you will know how many grams of protein your body needs to function well.
If you really don’t want to do any calculations whatsoever, you can rely on the general rule that the average woman needs around 46 grams of protein and the average man needs around 56 grams.
Now, if you are a casual athlete, someone who exercises on a regular basis, you will need a bit more than the average person in order to rebuild muscle mass as you work out. Depending on how much exercise you do, you will want to increase your protein intake anywhere from 25% to 50%. Keeping track of your workouts and exercise routines can help you determine how much more protein you should take. Start by adding just a bit more to your regular, healthy diet, and note when your energy levels are too low. This can be a sign that you are getting insufficient amounts of protein.
What Are the Best Sources of Protein?
When most people think about proteins, they think of meat. And it is true that meat can be a good source of protein, but like so many things in the food world, there are some meats which are much better sources of protein than others.
When it comes to the best meat sources for protein, you should consider avoiding traditional food markets which sell meat raised in confined feeding environments. Often times these animals are genetically modified and are fed high levels of grain in place of grass. These kinds of meats have been connected to a host of possible side effects just Alzheimer’s disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a human kind of Mad Cow disease). So, free range meats are better for the purity of the protein they provide.
But the best meat protein will be found fish and poultry (again, free-range). If you want the highest degree of excellent protein, consider regular portions of both anchovies and sardines.
Another good animal source of protein is the chicken egg. Free-range chicken eggs have as much as 6-8 grams of protein per egg. While you will pay a bit more for free-range eggs, they are vastly superior to confined feeding eggs.
But as we pointed out, meat is not the only source of protein for your diet, or at least it should not be. A balanced diet will take into account both animal (meat) and plant sources of protein. Generally speaking, most vegetables have around 1-2 grams of protein per ounce. So, you will get some protein just by eating your veggies.
But in addition to this, you should consider also incorporating into your diet things like hemp seeds, chia seeds, or spirulina. These all have a high amount of protein per ounce and can be an excellent source of other nutrients as well.
While using protein shakes and other supplements can be a way to get more protein for those that work out a lot, consider using your diet as the primary source of protein. Do not rely on these artificial sources as they do not include many of the other nutrients that also come along with natural foods.
So there you have it. Protein is an essential building block of the body. It is necessary both to maintain and to build up muscles and other important tissues in the body. Too little protein and the body can become anemic. Too much protein and the body can store too much fat and lead to other negative side effects.
Consider today your particular body’s protein needs and start looking for the healthy foods that will give you all the energy and nutrients you need. While using some protein supplements is not a bad thing, it is best to use your overall diet of meat and plant based protein to give your body what it needs.
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