What Is All The Hype About Protein?
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Protein is a popular topic of conversation in the fitness and nutrition world. And, it has trickled into the conversation of average people who may not necessarily be serious with fitness or nutrition. For those who are new to that world, the information can be confusing and overwhelming. Never mind that there is an abundant amount of opinions and resources trying to “inform” people, but the vast amount of data surrounding the recommendations can make it frustrating. Today, let’s get right to the basics of the macronutrient: PROTEIN.
Protein can be consumed in many forms. The most common form of protein in the American diet is animal protein; chicken, beef, turkey, fish, and pork. The quality of that protein can be dictated by how the animal is raised and fed, how much saturated fat is typically in its composition, and how it is processed. Certain cuts of beef have higher amounts of saturated fat, and some processed chicken products are mixed with lower quality parts of the animal. Not all fish is created equal. Salmon and tuna have higher amounts of micronutrients than other white meat types of fish. All processed meat products can contain fillers that decrease the amount of quality protein. What many people do not consider is that protein can be consumed in non-meat forms as well. Nuts, eggs, dairy, legumes (beans and peas), and soy products are also high protein foods. And while the amount is much smaller, vegetables have proteins in them as well. Peas, spinach, kale, broccoli, and mushrooms are superfoods packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein.
The big question surrounding the talk on protein is: how much should one consume each day? First, understand that there may be special considerations that dictate deviation from the recommendations for daily consumption for some people. There are slight differences for males, females, age groups, and activity levels. For the purpose of basic education, and a base line for the average person, the following information is what the federal government recommends. One way to consider intake is to look at the percentage of daily calorie intake, consisting of protein; for 1- 3 year olds, 5-20% of the total calorie intake, for 4-18 year olds, 10-30%, and for 19 and older, 10-35%. The low end of the range would be for sedentary people, while the high end of the range would be for very active people. That means that the average American adult, who consumes 2000 calories per day, should aim to eat 200-600 calories of protein. Every four calories is a gram of protein. If you are tracking that intake by grams, that means the average intake would be 50-150 grams of protein. Again, these are averages, with lower end being for those that are sedentary versus the higher end being for active people. Younger people and females will need that lower intake, while older people and men will fall on the higher end for intake.
How and when to intake protein should be intentional as well. It is ideal to spread your intake throughout the day, helping to provide variety through consumption of breakfast foods like eggs, snack foods like nuts and diary, and meat eaten traditionally at lunch or dinner. That variety will also help with consumption of other nutrients that are needed to help absorb protein and micronutrients while making sure organs work optimally. Protein consumption is important for workout fueling and refueling, hunger satiation aiding in weight management, and maintenance of glucose levels to help prevent, or monitor, diabetes.
These basic guidelines for protein consumption can help filter through the plethora of information and opinions given. Creating a starting point in your nutritional lifestyle, using these basic guidelines for protein consumption, can help insure that you are consuming protein in the optimal ways and amounts. Having success with it can lead to success with weight and health management. Knowledge is power and protein is a powerful part of your diet.
Kim Elsing Greater Green Bay YMCA
Certified Personal Trainer, FNS, Nondiet Weight Management Certified, Trained in Holistic Life Coaching through GAHP (Global Association of Holistic Practictioners)