How Much Protein Do I Need?
When even your local newsagent is peddling protein-infused Mars bars, it's fair enough to question whether you need to eat more protein.
The recommended daily intake is 55 grams (or 0.8 grams per 1 kg of bodyweight to be more exact). If you're an endurance athlete or heavy exerciser you could increase it to 1.2-1.7 grams per 1 kg of bodyweight. That's a total intake of 75-125 grams of protein per day.
Most people's diets will include this amount of protein so it's rarely necessary supplement it. To put it in context one egg typically contains 13 grams of protein.
The ratio of protein to fibre is more important than the total protein
Eating excess protein not only has unpleasant side effects (causing excess gas) but has also been linked to diseases such as colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. According to the Gut Doctor, Dr Megan Rossi, what's more important that the total amount of protein you eat is the ratio of protein to fibre. So if you eat lots of protein but also eat lots of fibre, the negative impact on your gut is likely reduced. So if you're addicted to steak, make sure you also eat wholegrains, vegetables, legumes (beans and pulses), herbs and spices. You may want to take a look at our recent blog about fibre.
Even a completely plant-based meal can tick all boxes
It's also worth noting that you don't need to eat animal foods to get your daily intake of protein. Animal foods (eggs, milk, greek yoghurt, chicken and fish) have the highest proportion of protein (and therefore known as complete protein). However certain plant foods (soy, tofu, quinoa and buckwheat) also provide all of 9 essential amino acids found in complete protein. Most plant-based proteins are limited in one or more amino acids and therefore known as incomplete protein.
Even a completely plant based meal can tick all the boxes in terms of essential amino acids if you combine them correctly. For example - grains and nuts or grains and legumes (beans and pulses).
Certain plant foods (soy, tofu, quinoa and buckwheat) provide all of 9 essential amino acids found in complete protein.
When to eat protein?
Most people eat little protein with breakfast, some at lunch and most at dinner.
According to the Journal of Nutrition protein consumption skewed towards the evening can contribute to less than optimal muscle growth. By eating this way we deprive our body of the benefits of eating protein. So it's best to make sure every single meal and snack contains at least a little bit of protein.
So next time you reach for the crunchy nut consider making a shake with tofu and banana instead!
Please note that Claire is not a professional nutritionist so these tips are based on tried-and-tested methods and may not work for everyone.