Protein – Nurturing with Nature
We all need protein. But do you know how much you personally need?
And what’s the best way to get it?
First, we need to understand protein.
What is protein?
Protein is one of the three energy-yielding nutrients, along with carbohydrate and fat. When broken down by the body, foods containing these nutrients provide us with energy – which the body uses to function. All of the body’s activities, from cell production to electrical impulses and moving muscles, are powered by the energy from our food.
What does protein do?
We often think of protein as the main source of fuel for exercise and muscle building, but this isn’t quite right. Protein provides us with about 17 kilojoules of energy per gram, as does carbohydrate – while one gram of fat yields 37 kilojoules. Proteins are found in the muscles and skin and also help regulate internal activities like digestion and energy metabolism.
Protein use during activity
Have you ever heard the saying, the results come on rest day? That’s because the synthesis of body proteins is supressed during physical activity. In the hours that follow however, protein synthesis revs up. Studies show eating high carbohydrate foods immediately after exercise accelerates glycogen storage in muscle tissue, while eating carbohydrate and protein together enhances muscle protein synthesis – aka, builds muscle.
Protein as fuel
Athletes and people engaging in regular physical activity retain more protein in their muscles, because the body adapts to the repeated physical need. That’s why we see muscle wastage or a return to a softer, less defined appearance when we take a break from our usual activity in the off-season, or during injury. Still, protein only contributes about 10% of fuel used during activity or rest.
How activity affects protein use
The intensity and duration of activity impacts the way in which protein is used. For example, endurance athletes training more than an hour a day and those engaging in moderate intensity aerobic activity for long durations, are likely to deplete glycogen stores during their workout and rely on protein for energy.
Strength training however doesn’t use as much protein for energy, but does need more protein for building and adapting muscle.
All active people, young and old, use more protein than sedentary people. But very few need the protein supplements, powders and drinks so popular today. Most people can consume adequate protein from the foods they eat, and getting your nutrients from food is always the best option – and cheapest too!
Some high protein food sources include:
FOOD Protein per 100gm
Sunflower Seeds 21gm
Pumpkin Seeds 19gm
The Nutrient References Values for Australia and New Zealand do not recommend greater than normal protein intakes for active people and athletes, however some authorities do. The below recommendations are from the American College of Sports Medicine.
Recommended Daily Intake – Protein (gram per kilo of body weight)
Strength or Speed Athlete
1.2 – 1.7
1.2 – 1.4
To find your recommended intake, multiply the relevant figure by your body weight (in kg) and aim to consume that much protein per day.
DISCLAIMER: Dietary and nutritional needs are highly individual and should be discussed with a qualified practitioner. This guide is for reference only and not intended to replace licenced medical advice.