How to Achieve Protein Goals

Pack your plate with protein and eat your way to good health. Protein is one of three major “macronutrients” that make up our diets. The other two are fat and carbohydrates, and all three macronutrients are found across all foods in varying proportions combined. 

Protein is a dietary superstar because it contributes to so many of our essential functions on a day-to-day basis. These include:

• Making up the cellular structures in our body, organs, skin and hair

• Creating hormones and signalling proteins

• Making up a large part of our immune system to fight off infection

• Keeping our muscles strong

• Helping with recovery from exercise

• And much more

A little more about protein and amino acids

Proteins are a relatively large structure, made up of many tiny building blocks called “amino acids”. Amino acids link together in different combinations to make different proteins with varying functions. There are 20 types of amino acids (with catchy names such as lysine, arginine, cysteine, glutamine…. you get the point), and these are classed as essential or non-essential. 

Essential amino acids mean that it is necessary to eat them in your diet as your body can’t create them, and there are 9 of these. Non-essential amino acids (the other 11) can be made by your body without you eating them, so it is not essential for you to eat these.

I mention these non-essential and essential amino acids because foods containing ALL of the essential amino acids are best for us. These are known as complete proteins. Examples of complete proteins are meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and the only vegetarian /vegan source of protein is soy protein. This can come in the form of tofu, tempeh or quorn mince. Vegetarians and vegans should enhance their protein intake by eating soy protein or combining other plant-based proteins to make a complete protein. For example, combining rice and legumes, beans and grains, or lentils and rice can make a complete protein.

To optimise your protein intake, it is recommended to have at least 0.8g per kg body weight. This may sound confusing, but all you have to do is simply do this calculation:

0.8 x (insert body weight in kg here, eg- 90kg) = grams of protein per day

Eg: 0.8 x 90 = 72g of protein per day minimum. For context, 100g of meat has around 25g of protein in it.

I recommend eating protein at least three times per day to meet these requirements. Otherwise you may get to dinner and feel like you have to eat a giant piece of meat which can be off-putting for some people! If you break your daily protein goal down into bite-sized pieces (pun intended), it becomes much more manageable. Aim to include it in all of your main meals by doing the following:

• At breakfast, you could have low-fat greek yoghurt, eggs, or scrambled tofu and beans. 

• At lunch and dinner, you could incorporate a range of meat, poultry, fish and tofu to create a filling meal.

• If you miss a meal, you can have a protein shake instead to make up your requirements. Look for one with high-quality ingredients such as our Tony Ferguson Rapid Shakes. 

For more information, head to our dietitian’s corner and read through our other great articles!

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Domino Puttick

Accredited Practising Dietitian

April 12, 2021