Protein is a buzzword in any conversation about health and fitness. The last you heard from little diagrams in the science textbooks, protein was what you got from eggs, and milk. Next thing you know, there are protein shakes, protein powders and all kinds of products around you!
This leaves most of us in a bit of a confusion. If we get protein from our normal diet like we learned, why do we need these supplements? How important is protein while trying to maintain a healthy diet?
Let’s delve into the secrets of protein- the powerhouse of any diet!
What are proteins & why are they important for our health?
The word protein by its origin claims the primary importance in our health and nutrition. [It comes from the Greek word ‘Proteios’ meaning ‘first rank or primary’] It is a crucial macronutrient that forms the building blocks of the body. Protein is essential for repairing and building tissues and is therefore responsible for any growth that occurs in our body.
Antibodies, which are specialized proteins, help defend the body against harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. If your diet lacks sufficient protein, it can weaken the immune response and make you more susceptible to infections. As we grow old, we are bothered by muscle pains, joint pains and what not! Protein is the defense mechanism that fights against cell degenerating and helps cell recovery.
How much protein do we need?
If you are someone who is just interested in maintaining and healthy weight and diet, you need not get confused by seeing the protein intake of someone who is building muscles or a professional athlete. Your goals are vastly different and so will be your protein requirements. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for a sedentary person is 0.8-1g per kilogram of body weight.
RDA only represents the minimum amount of nutrients we need to not die or fall sick. You may need a higher amount to improve fitness and thrive. Starting from the recommended level, you can gradually increase your protein intake depending on your fitness goals.
Protein intake while dieting/losing weight
Athletes frequently adopt dietary strategies, whether it’s to achieve a specific weight class or minimize excess fat mass. Muscle loss during dieting is always a danger and researchers have long been exploring methods to mitigate or prevent such muscle loss. As mentioned earlier, calorie intake is a known modulator of protein requirements. As calories go up, the body retains more protein; as calories go down, the body retains less and you need to increase the intake of protein.
If you’re dieting, the protein intake needs to increase to cover the additional requirements. In overweight, non-training individuals, a protein intake of 1.5 g/kg (0.7 g/lb), roughly twice the RDA, may be required to limit LBM losses while dieting. If you’re deiting, losing weight, building muscle or involved in endurance athletics your protein intake can be 1.6-1.8g per kilogram of body weight.
Ensuring sufficient protein intake while dieting has additional benefits as well. Higher protein intakes tend to increase fullness, may increase caloric expenditure and help to maintain stable blood glucose levels. Higher protein intakes also appear to limit weight regain after a diet.
Now that we know how important proteins are to the body, let’s get to know about common protein sources and bust some misconceptions in our next blog!