You probably have heard that protein is important to your body, but do you understand why? Protein is in the group of macronutrients and considered a major nutrient in your body. It is needed to build and repair all the cells in your body and the amount you need a day may surprise you.
How much protein should you have per day? Most people need 70-120% of their body weight in protein in grams to meet their daily needs, so if you are a woman who weighs 60kg you need 42-72g over a day. The only time when the amount of protein you need is increased is in earlier stages of life during times of fast growth in children and adolescence, also during pregnancy, during illness and post-surgery and for athletes competing in power sports such as weightlifting in the early stages of their training regime.
You can drink protein or eat protein, but how much does that look like in our everyday consumption? Here are some examples of foods and beverages which give you 10g of protein:
- 2 eggs
- 85g firm tofu
- 40g of cheddar cheese
- 45g white fish
- 200g reduced fat yoghurt
- 300mL reduced fat soy milk
- 200g baked beans
- 3 slices of wholemeal bread
- 100g muesli
- 60g (2 small handfuls) of cashews
- 15g of Australian Natural Protein Company whey protein
An example of what this could look like as meals and snacks over a day:
200g baked beans on 2 slices of wholegrain toast with some low-fat cheddar cheese (30g of protein)
30g scoop of Australian Natural Protein Company whey protein with a small piece of fruit (20g)
2 slices of wholemeal bread with a tin of salmon in spring water (100g) with a cup of salad. (30g)
2 Weet-bix topped with 30g 100% peanut butter and a banana (13g of protein)
½ cup of whole grain pasta with 80g of chicken breast and a cup of stir-fried vegetables using 2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil (27g of protein)
Snack: 250mL of warm skim milk with some cinnamon (9.25g)
Total protein over the day: 129.25g
On top of meeting your protein needs each day spreading your protein out in optimal amounts is of equal importance. Including 20-40g of protein in a single meal or 15-20g in a snack is the optimal amount for muscle synthesis and maintenance. What happens to the excess? You either use as energy or store as fat. Therefore, taking additional supplements are not needed and, in some cases, can add unnecessary energy to your diet which can make it even harder to achieve the results you desire.
Take home message!
Protein is an essential macronutrient for the health of your body. Make sure you are meeting your protein needs and spreading the amount of protein required by your body over the day for optimal muscle growth and maintenance.
- Government A. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Australia: Australian Government; 2017 [updated 02-04-2014. Available from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/macronutrient-balance.
- Stewart R. The Handbook of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics 4th ed. Australia: Dietitians Association of Australia; 2007. 248 p.163-180.