Why is Protein Important and How Much Do You Need?
Protein is a macronutrient needed to form muscles and bones as well as parts of the blood, enzymes and some hormones. The average adult requires 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Someone who is more active or looking to gain muscle while resistance training may increase protein up to 1.2-2.0 g/kg/day.
Sources of Protein
Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes and nuts are all sources of protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids, meaning they must be consumed in the diet, and eleven amino acids which can be produced by the body. Sources of protein are considered complete if they have all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts and incomplete if they do not. All meat and animal-based foods contain all nine essential amino acids and are complete proteins.
The few plant-based foods that are complete proteins include: quinoa, soy, buckwheat, and pumpkin seeds. Individuals who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet should make sure that they are including a variety of plant based protein sources throughout the day to ensure that they get all essential amino acids in sufficient amounts.
Combining incomplete proteins can be done to form complete proteins. For example, combining whole grains like brown rice with legumes like beans for a meal. Eating nuts for a snack and eating beans at dinner is also a good way to combine incomplete proteins as it does not have to be done at one meal, just throughout the day.
Incorporating Protein in Meals and Snacks
½ cup Greek yogurt – 10 g protein
- Can be eaten with fruit and granola or added to a smoothie
90 g of meat, poultry or fish – 20-27 g of protein
- Can be eaten with a serving of whole grains and vegetables
¼ block (90g) of tofu – 7 g protein
- Can be added to a stir fry with vegetables
1 cup cooked beans – 15-19 g protein
- Can be added to chilli and served with a whole grain like brown rice or added to tacos made with whole wheat flour or corn to make a complete protein
1 ounce of almonds (~23) – 6 g protein
- Can be eaten alone, on top of yogurt or oatmeal
Protein supplements are not a necessary part of a healthy diet if you are able to get adequate protein from food sources. However, if your goal is to gain muscle and you have difficulty getting more protein in your diet, a whey protein powder or a combined pea and brown rice protein powder are options that both have about 20-25 g per serving and are complete sources of protein.
It is important to be aware of added sugar and flavours in protein powders. Eating whole foods is best when possible and when choosing a protein supplement less ingredients is better.
Kait Clarke is a graduate of Algonquin College’s Fitness and Health Promotion Program and she is a CSEP Certified Personal Trainer. She also has a graduate certificate in Nutrition for Sport and Performance at Niagara College. Her goal as a personal trainer is to create a compassionate and comfortable environment for her clients to thrive. You can find Kait training clients out of our Glebe location.