The Importance of Protein
Karen Coghlan aka The Nut Coach is a nutrition coach, sports nutritionist, writer, personal trainer, PhD, kettlebell nut, and barbell lover. When not coaching clients (or deadlifting or squatting), she can be found drinking coffee and writing her weekly nutrition column for national newspapers in Dublin, Ireland.
While it is true what they say, food is fuel, it is way more than that.
Yes, food provides us with the daily energy we need to get out of bed in the morning, to go to work, to go to the gym, and to socialise at the weekends, but it also has a massive impact on our health.
A poor diet, in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle, will lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer.
Nutritious food enhances our health, prevents diseases, and supports a strong body. If you get your nutrition dialled in then you will feel and look better then you could have ever imagined.
Dietary protein is one of the essential nutrients that we must eat every day. Not just to survive, but to thrive.
Protein is the basic building blocks of our bodies and it is essential if we want to achieve our best health. It is vital that we get adequate amounts daily in our diet, not only for building and repairing muscles in the gym and improving sports performance, but also to grow strong hair and nails, to produce hormones, brain chemicals and antibodies to help fight infection and disease.
Without enough protein in our diet, our bodies would cease to function and we would start to experience some unpleasant side effects. Symptoms of protein deficiency include thin and brittle hair, scaly dry skin, sore muscles and cramps, slow healing wounds and skin ulcers.
The media has been guilty recently of erroneously reporting that a high protein diet is unhealthy and been blamed for increasing osteoporosis and kidney damage. This is untrue. A diet rich in protein is perfectly safe in healthy, active individuals and in fact can offer a protective mechanism against impaired immune function and sarcopenia (loss of muscle) in the elderly.
How much protein we need in our daily diet depends on a few factors. Mainly body size and activity level. Adult protein requirements in Ireland for a moderately active man weighing 70kg is 70g daily, and for a moderately active woman weighing 55kg is 55g daily.
However, these RDAs are quite conservative, and if you are more active person and especially if you have a body composition goal (either to build muscle and/or lose body fat) then you should be aiming to eat up to 50% more protein than these recommendations.
Active people need more protein than sedentary people, due to protein breakdown that occurs during exercise and to repair and rebuild muscle post-exercise. A strategically planned protein regime timed around exercise is essential to preserve and build muscle, to ensure proper recovery, to reduce post-exercise soreness, and to sustain a healthy immune system during periods of high-volume training.
Protein should be eaten with each meal and not with just our main dinner, which is usually the case. Eating a source of protein with our breakfast and snacks is important for balancing blood sugars, helping with appetite control and optimising metabolism.
Good sources of protein include; lean meats such as ground beef, chicken, and turkey, fish such as salmon, tuna, and cod, eggs, low-fat natural dairy such as cottage cheese, Greek yogurt like Glenisk's protein range, cheese, and beans peas and legumes.