Ah protein – it seems to be the favourite of all macronutrients. Between protein shakes, protein balls and protein pancakes – we’ve all become pretty protein obsessed.
Not only is it essential for the proper day-to-day functioning of our bodies, it also assists with weight loss, promotes lean muscle mass and helps keeps us feeling fuller for longer.
But before we go for that next spoonful of peanut butter, we have to ask – is there such thing as too much?
The simple answer is yes.
“Your protein intake per day depends on physical activity levels, type and body size which all should be taken into account,” says Chloe McLeod, Accredited Practicing Dietitian. “Usually, aiming for around 1g/kg/day for the average person is adequate; some athletes require approximately 2g/kg/day. Keep in mind that this is very easy to consume, with most people exceeding their daily requirement.”
“Excess consumption can lead to other nutrients being missed or under consumed and can put unwanted pressure on the kidneys. High intakes of protein from red meat have also been linked to bowel cancer.”
So how can we ensure that we are properly meeting our individual protein needs? With some basic maths of course! You can get all the info you need by reading food labels. If it doesn’t come in a packet or you shy away from numbers (guilty) you’ll find 10g of protein in each of the following items:
• 2 small eggs
• 30g cheese
• 1 cup of milk
• 35g cooked red meat
• 40g cooked chicken
• 50g cooked fish
• 4 slices wholemeal bread
• 120g tofu
• 60g nuts or seeds
• 300mL soy milk
• 3/4 cup kidney beans
• 2 cups cooked pasta
“Keep these in mind, or use an app such as Easy Diet Diary or My Fitness Pal to help you work it out, if you need to,” suggests Chloe. “If you don’t want to be spending time doing this, aim for 1 quarter of your main meals to be made up of protein rich foods.”
Chloe also recommends opting for good quality red meat such as grass fed beef or sustainability caught fish. “Being mindful of what the animal has been fed is important to take into account; for example healthy fats are higher than less healthy fats in grass fed meat.”
If you’re veggo, “Legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils are all great high protein options as are tofu, quinoa, nuts and seeds,” says Chloe. “Healthy fats, fibre and low GI carbohydrate are also found in most of these foods, meaning multiple health benefits are present. If a boost is needed, pea or rice protein can be useful to top things up.”
Not sure how to incorporate protein into every meal? “Choose eggs for breakfast, nuts for a morning snack, tuna or chicken at lunch, yoghurt for an afternoon snack and meat or tofu for dinner. Spreading intake over the day is essential for maximising muscle growth.”