Cáoileánn Conway, Registered Clinical & Sports Dietitian | Founder of Be a Better You @be_betteryou
We’ve all heard amazing things about protein it’s a huge buzzword - but why? Why do we actually need it, what makes it so special but also, how do I actually get enough into my diet?
Why do we need it?
Protein is generally made up of amino acids - these are the building blocks of protein. Some protein sources can all have different amounts of these amino acids but generally, animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, dairy) have a full range of amino acids whilst plant-based sources (e.g. pulses and cereals) need to be taken in combination to ensure they’re giving you the full range. This is often why it's said vegans and vegetarians find it slightly harder to reach their requirements.
Protein has lots of functions in the body as it makes up part of the structure of every cell and tissue in your body, including muscle tissue, internal organs, tendons, skin, hair & nails. General requirements are set at 0.75g per kilogram of body weight for the public.
As an example, a 65kg female would require ~49g of protein per day. However there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to protein intake and how much you should be taking including if you are ill, suffering a chronic illness if you train frequently and the type of sport you train if you are trying to lose or gain weight as well as your current body composition so it’s very important that a one size fits all approach isn’t taken when it comes to having much you should be taking. I highly recommend seeking out a qualified professional such as a Dietitian for this.
How do I increase my protein intake?
Distributing your protein intake evenly across the day is more beneficial for your body but also makes it a lot easier to get it in. For example, aim to have a protein source at breakfast, lunch and dinner for example oats made with semi-skimmed milk for breakfast; chicken bagel for lunch; salmon stir fry for dinner.
Often we can forget about having good quality meals and end up potentially only having 1 meal in the day with 7-8 snacks. Often we reach for carb-based snacks such as crisps, toast, buns, and fruit and albeit there is a place and time for this however the overall quality of our diet can be jeopardised by this but so too can our protein intake. Therefore adopt the approach from point number one and focus on those quality protein sources with set meals.
Including greek yoghurt, protein powder, lunch meats such as chicken or turkey slices and dairy products are all easy ways to increase your protein intake during the day.
Using the likes of protein powder added to your oats in the morning or greek yoghurt as well as smoothies is a great whey (pun intended) to increase your protein intake without increasing calories in a meal by much.
If you find getting all that in a day is difficult, liquid protein can go down a lot easier sometimes. For example, opting for a protein shake made up with semi-skimmed milk or a smoothie fortified with protein powder can be a super easy way of hitting your target protein intake.
Its very easy to get a high protein intake from food alone, and this is always encouraged first prior to using supplements however they can be a brilliant addition to your diet when implemented correctly.
Recipe to help you hit that protein goal!
What you’ll need:
14g Lightest Mayonnaise
20g Sweet Chilli sauce
108g Moy Park ready to eat chicken breast
14g Cheddar Cheese
What to do:
British Nutrition Foundation (2019) “Nutrition requirements” https://archive.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html