Protein is usually a topic that interests those looking to build muscle and even shed the extra pounds. But the reality is that protein does so much more for the body. Including helping us feel full and satiated throughout the day.
First, here’s a little extra info on protein:
It comes from the Greek word protos meaning “first”. I confess that part was actually new to me. See, we learn something new everyday ;).
Most of us make the important link between the amount of protein we have in a day and muscle development. But I want to share with you the other amazing roles that protein plays in our bodies! You see, your body needs protein to build new cells, maintain tissues, and make new protein for your body to use. Does this give you flashbacks of biology class and migraines with it too? Don’t be afraid, we’re in this together!
The main reason why we need protein is because our bodies are full of it.
Wanna see some of the neat places where protein makes an appearance?
- Hair, nails, and outer layer of skin are made up of a protein called keratin — it is just one of the many amazing ways that our bodies have to protect us.
- Muscle contains quite a number of different proteins.
- The inner structure of bones.
- Ever heard of hemoglobin? It’s in our red blood cells. This is a protein that carries oxygen throughout our bodies. So yeah, pretty important.
- Don’t get scared of this next one: enzymes. These are very special proteins that do specific jobs such as digesting or breaking down food (not to be confused with the book/movie “Breaking Dawn” 😉 ). These are so important that about 1/2 of the protein that you eat each day goes into making enzymes.
- Your immune system.
- and the list goes on!
As you can see, protein is quite important not only to develop Johnny Bravo muscles. A little side note, Johnny Bravo was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. If this sounds foreign to you, stop everything and check out some episodes on YouTube.
So you might be wondering where you can get some and whether you should be ordering some protein shakes ASAP.
NOPE! At least not as your first go-to. What better way to get your protein needs than through eating delicious foods? Shakes, when they have clean ingredients, can be a great supplement to your lifestyle. But foods should always come first. Some great sources include eggs, nuts & nut butters in general (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachio, peanuts), beans, lentils, soy, chickpeas, fish, and even dairy & dairy-free options.
How much protein do I need?
Moving on to how much our bodies actually need, you might be feeling ready to ditch the other nutrients like fats and carbs and focus mainly on protein. Hey, at least our hair would look fantastic! The thing is carbs and fats are actually quite important for the proper functioning of our bodies as well. And it turns out that protein out of the 3 is the one that we typically consume in high amounts as is.
So let’s do some math together to figure out how much each one of you need of protein per day. Calculators in hand, or if you are one of those math wizzes, then no need ;).
First step: Convert your weight from pounds to kilograms by dividing it by 2.2. Say your weight in pounds is 160 –> 160 / 2.2 = 72.73 (this is how much you weigh in kilograms).
Second step: Multiply your weight in kilograms by the following:
0.8 – if you are not very physically active (basically if you’re a student or work at a desk, walk less than 2 miles per day).
1.0 – if you have a light physical activity level (jog, walk, bike not every day).
1.2 – if you are physically active every day (run, bike, swim, every day).
1.5 – if you are physically active and are trying to build muscle.
Usually when you calculate your nutrient needs per day, you estimate a range since we don’t eat the same thing or behave the same way every day. Let’s say you fall somewhere in between the first and second, so this is what the math will look like: 72.73 x 0.8 = around 58g AND 72.73 x 1.0 = 73g. The range of how much protein your body needs is about 58-73 g.
IMPORTANT: Keep in mind we are talking about grams of protein and not calories, OK?
Now that we have all calculated and know how much protein our bodies need, here are some good food sources and how many grams each one has:
– 3 ounces (this is about the palm of your hand) of lean meats, fish or poultry –> 21 grams.
– 1 cup of unsweetened yogurt –> 10 grams.
– 1 cup (8 ounces) of unsweetened milk –> 9 grams.
– 1 egg –> 6-8 grams.
– 6 ounces of tofu –> 13 grams.
– 1 cup of soymilk –> 7 grams.
– 1/2 cup cooked beans –> 7-8 grams.
– 1 cup of oatmeal –> 6 grams.
– 1 ounce of almonds –> 6 grams.
– 1 tablespoon of peanut butter –> 4 grams.
So as you can see, there are so many delicious foods that have a pretty decent amount of protein. Which is why we don’t really have to depend on protein shakes to reach our daily needs. Enjoy whole foods first since these are also rich in so many other nutrients. Your body will thank you!