Over the last several months, I’ve been on a mission to rediscover my own health. This shift was brought on by multiple aspects but ultimately I realized that somewhere along the way, I hadn’t been taking great care of myself. I thought things were fine…they weren’t.
I’m telling you this for a couple of reasons. One, we need to normalize not being okay. It’s hard to ask for help or even realize that something’s off when we’re programmed to make things seem fine. Two, I’ve decided to share the nutrition and wellness part of rediscovering my health in the hopes that it may help someone else. This is also part of why Friendly Nutrition changed its focus from nutrition counseling to meal planning.
I did a lot of research as I was figuring out my own nutrition but this is not medical advice. This is for educational purposes and to share the importance of paying attention to your body.
The first thing that I started looking into was protein. I am a dietitian which means that I know that protein is important (as are carbohydrate and fat). However, protein becomes something that needs to be paid attention to as we age. Protein is also important for someone who is incorporating strength training and I increased my mostly nonexistent strength training routine as well (more on that piece of everything later).
Let’s start by covering the protein basics.
What is protein?
Protein is one of three macronutrients. The other two are carbohydrate and fat. Macronutrients are essential for your body to function properly and you should be eating them every day.
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids and nine of these are essential. These amino acids are part of every cell in your body.
Protein is needed for several daily functions, including:
- Making enzymes and hormones.
- Building, repairing, and maintaining muscle, hair, skin, and nails.
- Supporting your immune system.
- Supporting bone health.
- Enhances metabolic function.
Where does protein come from?
There are a variety of foods that contain protein. There are plant and animal food sources of protein.
Animal protein sources: chicken, turkey, beef, pork, cheese, milk, eggs, yogurt
Plant protein sources: beans, peas, lentils, tofu, soy milk, other soy products, nuts & seeds, nut & seed butters
How much protein do I need?
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to talk about basic protein needs. I’ll dive into protein needs for aging and strength training later.
The general recommendation is that you need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
To figure out your weight in kilograms, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2.
As an example, let’s take a 150 pound adult human. In kilograms, this human weighs 68.2 kg (150 / 2.2 = 68.2 kg). This human would need 54.56 grams of protein per day (68.2 x 0.8 = 54.56).
This is a general recommendation. Your protein needs may be different depending on your lifestyle and health goals.
How can I make sure that I’m meeting my protein needs?
In general, this isn’t an area that most Americans need to worry about. However, if you are worried about meeting your protein goals, here are a few tips:
- Aim for 20 grams of protein per meal and make sure that your snacks include a protein item.
- Fill up 1/4 of your plate with protein. Here’s a general guideline for how to build a balanced plate: 1/2 fruits and/or vegetables, 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbohydrate or starchy vegetable.
- Remember, meat and poultry aren’t the only sources of protein. A 5.3 oz container of Greek yogurt has 12 grams of protein. One large egg contains 6 grams of protein. A 1/2 cup of cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein.
What questions do you have about protein? What would you like to learn more about as I continue through this series about protein? Please let me know if the comments or shoot me a message via the contact form.