Traditionally protein intake has been monitored as it was linked to high cholesterol, increased lipid levels and heart problems, but protein intake is crucial for growth. Protein consists of chains of amino acids that are used to grow hair, nails, skin, internal organs ad muscles. That is why many body builders consume extra protein in order to aid muscle growth. Proteins are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, but they are the only macro-nutrients that also contain nitrogen.
Sources of Protein
Many people who have sworn off meat still need to consume protein from other sources such as cottage cheese, yogurt, nuts and milk. Meat is the biggest contributor of complete protein into a diet, but not everybody enjoys a rump steak or greasy bacon. Meat lovers have been warned to trim excess fat off meat, avoid frying and other oily preparation methods and limit egg intake as the saturated fats has been known to increase cholesterol levels which causes clogged arteries.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for proteins is about 60g daily for adults, but athletes need 1.5-2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to perform optimally.
Here are ten guidelines and facts that will make your protein choices more informed and healthy:
1. Egg whites are healthier than the yolks – separate before eating.
2. Lighter meat such as chicken is leaner than dark meat such as beef – it contains less saturated fat that will clog arteries, increase cholesterol and increase caloric intake which leads to obesity.
3. Whey protein is the purest protein substitute and is extracted from milk proteins. It can be taken as a supplement (more concentrated) or drunk in milk. In nutritional terms the proteins found in milk and egg white are often classified as the gold standards of high protein quality.
4. Protein bars can be complete meals in themselves, but it is necessary to read the food labels as many of these bars are high in fat and calories.
5. Cottage cheese has the highest protein content of all cheeses, but goat’s cheese
6. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and there is more energy utilized in the digestion of carbohydrates
7. Oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and is a great source of protein
8. Sauces tend to be high in fat and may increase the fat content of a meal beyond recommended meals and while the meat may be acceptable, accompaniments such as creamy sauce and dressing may create unnecessary calories.
9. Incomplete protein foods such as legumes combined with small quantities of animal proteins will still ensure sufficient proteins to meet dietary needs, because plant proteins and animal proteins complement each other.
10. Protein powder does not only have to be consumed as a shake with milk and water. This powder can be added to any meal such as oats, pancakes or muesli.
Protein intake encourages muscle growth, and combined correctly with a calorie restricted diet it can lead to fat loss as well.