What is Protein?
There are three essential macronutrients that help to sustain life and provide you energy. Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Each one has a purpose that benefits your body in a specific way. Protein is a macronutrient that helps to build and maintain body tissue, and is essential to building muscle mass. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and muscle mass. Protein helps to build, maintain, and replace tissues in your body. Your muscles, organs, and immune system are made up mostly of protein.
Types of Protein
Proteins are made of amino acids. There is a total of 20 different amino acids. Some of the amino acids can't be made by the human body; they are essential amino acids. It is important that we take enough and balanced essential amino acids.
Foods that provide all the essential amino acids are called complete protein sources. Animal-based protein source normally are complete protein sources such as meat, fish, poultry, egg, milk, etc.
Most non-animal based protein source are incomplete. They may be low in one or more of the essential amino acids. However, eating different incomplete protein sources together can also provide sufficient protein needs for human health.
When you consume protein, it breaks down into amino acids during digestion and does a lot to keep your body running. Your body sends those amino acids to various parts of your body to keep them healthy and to help them grow. Blood is also made of protein and blood carries nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.
*To learn more about amino acids see here: Why BCAA's Are Important
Protein in Foods
Protein is commonly found in animal products, but can also be found through other sources such as nuts and legumes. Many food sources contain protein. Some of the best sources of protein are beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products (such as Greek yogurt and milk), nuts, seeds, legumes like black beans and lentils, quinoa, and edamame.
Protein also comes in many powdered forms. Protein powders can be consumed when mixed with water, cow milk, nut milk, in a smoothie, or in a recipe. The common forms of protein powder are Whey, Casein, Isolates, and Plant Based. The biggest difference between protein powders and protein in foods is digestion and fat content. Also, some manufacturers of protein powders throw extra stuff into their powders that have no nutritional value so it is best to use an all-natural brand like AboutTime.
Whey Protein Powders:
Whey protein is one of the most basic forms of protein. Whey protein makes up approximately 20% of the protein found in cow’s milk. It is a complete protein because it provides all the essential amino acids required by the body. Whey is a good protein for those looking to add extra protein to their diet or to help repair and rebuild muscles after a workout.
Whey Protein Isolate:
Whey isolate protein is the purest form of whey and a complete protein. This type of protein is perfect for low-carb diets because they are typically low on sugar and carbs, if any, and contains low lactose levels. Whey Isolate is also easily digested and contains essential amino acids that your body needs.
Casein Protein Powders:
Casein protein makes up approximately 80% of the protein found in a cow’s milk. It is found along with whey protein, but while whey is a fast digesting protein, casein is a slow digesting protein which allows you to feel fuller, longer. Casein plays a major rule in growth and development due to its amino acid composition
Soy Protein Powders:
Soy protein is formulated from soy beans and is a plant based protein. Soy beans are legumes that are low in fat and contain zero cholesterol. This protein is a perfect alternative for vegetarians and vegans, and allows them to still get their source of protein.
Soy beans, soy milk, and other soy products are sources of soy protein.
Similarities of Protein Powders:
Natural protein powders are beneficial to the maintenance of muscles, the health of the immune system, and the maintenance of blood sugar levels.
Protein powders are a good substitute when you cannot get protein from foods, or if your looking to add extra protein to your diet. They are also great to help repair and rebuild protein when taken after a workout.
Amount of Protein That a Human Body Needs:
The amount of protein needed daily by the human body relies on many conditions. Normally it is estimated based on the body weight. (0.8-1.8 gram/kg of body weight) or as a percentage of total calories intake (10%-35%), or simply based on age. The age based recommended dietary allowances (RDA) are listed below:
It is important to note that this is not a textbook amount that every single person should follow. Just like every diet and fitness journey, it depends on the person and everyone is different. The amount of protein that you consume on a daily basis varies on your age, body weight, activity level, and fitness goals. Your amount of protein also needs to be divided among fats and cabohydrates. In order to get the right amount of protein, you need to have a balanced and nutritious diet.
Below are basic examples of well balanced & nutritious meals:
Eating a protein-packed breakfast helps you to feel full and helps you to stay focused and energized throughout the day.
Example: AboutTime Protein Pancakes served with 1/2 cup berries and 1/4 cup Greek yogurt.
The pancake mix has 21g of Whey Isolate Protein per serving. 6g of fiber. 260 calories.
For breakfast an ideal plate will have 20% protein, 40% fruits, and 40% carbohydrates/starch.
Example: Grilled Chicken on a bed of salad green with 1 cup of fresh vegetables and 1/2 cup cooked quinoa.
An ideal lunch will have 20% protein, 40% fruit/veggies, and 40% carbohydrates/starch.
Example: 6 oz of sirloin steak, 1/2 cup green beans, 1/2 cup tomatoes and cucumbers, and 1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes.
An ideal dinner will have 50% vegetables, 30% protein, and 20% carbohydrates/starch.
After a Workout:
Eating protein after a workout can help you repair and build muscle. You should consume approximately 20-25 grams of protein after a workout.
Example: A protein shake, or a Mug cake made from AboutTime protein pancake mix, or AboutTime Prohydrate protein for recovery and hydration.
Examples: Nuts, sliced vegetables, fresh fruit, baked apples, kale chips, avocado, and rice cakes
Nutrient Density is defined as foods that provide substantial amounts of nutrients with only the necessary calories. Translation – get more bang for your buck! An apple and a cookie may both be 200 calories, but which item will give you more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and help you to stay fuller longer? – The Apple! As we seen from the chart earlier, just because a fast food burger has protein listed on the supplement facts does not mean it is a nutritious source of protein.
The key to improved health and promoting fat loss is to consume foods that are high in nutrient density while still staying within your calorie goals. This means that just because you had a great 60-minute workout and burned over 500 calories; the cookie (even if it fits into your calorie budget) will still be a setback in your goals. Many find this a huge relief to calorie counting because they find that just by choosing nutrient dense foods ALL the time calories become irrelevant and they STILL achieve their goals.
Here is an example of foods with approximately the same calorie content. Can you guess which are the nutrient dense selections?
As you can see from the chart above, a large egg has more calories than 20 pieces of M&M's but is more nutritious and has more protein. Just because a food has a lower calorie count and has protein listed, does not mean it is nutritious. Proper nutritious balance is key to being healthy & fit.
FAQ About Protein:
Will protein help me build muscle faster?
Protein does help to build muscle mass, but only with a proper nutrition and exercise plan.
Taking more protein than you need (beyond 30-35 percent of your daily calories), probably won't provide additional muscle building benefits. You won't see muscles develop any faster with protein alone. You need to consume appropriate amount based on your needs and activity level to see a growth in muscle mass with protein.
Can I gain weight from eating too much protein?
Your body may have a harder time turning protein into fat, but it doesn't mean if you consume protein without exercise you will immedietely get muscle gains. If you eat way more protein (or any food) than your body needs, the excess could go into fat deposits. You have to fit the right nutrition and exercise plan for your body type, fitness goals, and activity level. Too many calories in any form can mean an increase in body fat.
Can too much protein be harmful to my body?
Yes, but only under certain circumstances. If you are in general good health, and have a high protein diet you should be fine. If you suffer from a chronic kidney disease, then you need to stay away from a diet that is high in protein. Excess protein can cause weight gain and yeast overgrowth, among other issues. You can always consult your physician to review your dietary plan.
Can protein become denatured if it's cooked?
Denaturing occurs when the structure of the amino acids found in protein change shape after the heat from cooking. So yes, protein does get alter from cooking, but your body will absorb the amino acids the exact same way whether it is cooked or not The nutritional value remains the same. Many people add protein to different food recipes. See helpful tips for baking with protein, here.
Can I consume whey isolate protein I am lactose intolerant or sensitive?
Pure whey isolate protein contains less than 1%(0.01) amount of lactose. So if you are lactose intolerant or lactose sensitive, you may be able to consume it.
What if a protein label says it is NON-GMO?
NON-GMO means "non-genetically modified organisms". Since protein (except plant based) is mainly from cow's milk, if you see a label that says GMO, you are getting protein from a grass-fed cow. Not a genetically modified by chemicals animal. This helps to ensure you are receiving a cleaner product.