Protein has to be the most misunderstood of macronutrients. But first: what the heck even is a macronutrient?
Let’s break it down: macronutrients (macro meaning big and nutrient meaning, well, nutrient) provide your body with energy and need to be consumed in relatively large quantities. The main macros are fat, carbohydrate and, of course, protein!
Protein is powerful stuff and it’s no coincidence so many of our healthy snacks are protein packed.
What does protein do?
To bounce back from a good workout, your body needs sufficient protein to repair the tissue that’s getting torn when you’re putting your muscles under pressure.
Your bod also relies on protein to power you if there are no carbohydrates to burn for energy; keep that in mind if you’re someone who generally steers clear of carbs.
We won’t dive into the chemical makeup of protein, the amino acids, enzymes and all that fun stuff, but trust us when we say protein works hard behind the scenes to keep you going, including promoting muscle repair and growth, transporting nutrients, aiding your immune system, and helping burn those pesky calories.
How much protein should I have?
How much protein you need depends on many factors, like your age, size, and level of activity.
If you’re a bit of a regular at the gym, you might be looking at 100 grams a day. For the less active, it’s more like half that. As a general rule of thumb, the average person needs about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day.
You can’t absorb more than 30 grams of protein at a time though, so make sure to stagger your intake throughout the day. A power shake here, a protein ball there… you get the gist.
And yes – you can have too much of a good thing. Excess protein can be stored as fat if it’s not being burned, so if you’re upping the protein, consider cutting the calories elsewhere.
What are the best sources of protein?
Fact: you don’t have to eat endless amounts of beef, poultry or fish to get sufficient protein in your diet. Vegetarians rejoice! For bigger muscles, a better recovery time, and more energy, work some of these protein-rich foods into your diet:
· Cottage cheese
· Cheddar cheese
· Black beans
· Kidney beans
· Pumpkin seeds
· Beef jerky
· Greek yoghurt
What about protein powders?
If you’re not getting enough protein in your everyday diet to keep up with your hustle for the muscle, protein powders can offer an easy boost.
Not all protein powders are created equal; there are so many types out there, it can be overwhelming! Protein powder can come from whey, casein, peas, soy, rice hemp…
Some things you don’t want in your protein powder are: artificial sweeteners, dextrins and maltodextrin, skim milk powders, milk solids, thickeners and gums, and vegetable oils and fats.
Choose wisely! Look for a short list of ingredients and steer clear of those ‘big words’ you haven’t heard of.