What is protein?
Proteins are compounds made of one or more long chains of amino acids. They are an essential part of all living organisms and are especially important in body tissues such as muscle, hair, nails and in enzymes and antibodies. Without getting enough protein in our diet, we would eventually die.
Where do we find protein?
All foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds and dairy products are generally high in protein.
How much do we need?
In the UK, the recommended daily intake of protein is 55.5g for men (18-50yrs) and 45g for women (18-50yrs). Above this age, protein requirements slightly decrease for men and slightly increase for women. Pregnant or breast feeding women have greater protein needs.
To put this into context, a 100g chicken breast fillet has around 18g protein, an egg has 6g and a 120g tin of tuna has 30g protein.
So it’s fairly easy to get adequate protein in your diet without having to supplement with protein shakes, bars or guzzle egg white omelettes. The possible exception to this is for vegetarians or vegans who may need to be more conscious of the different types of protein they’re getting.
Animal vs. plant protein
Animal protein such as that found in meat and fish contains all 9 essential amino acids that the body can’t make. Plant proteins however don’t contain all of these together – this is why it’s important for vegetarians and vegans to get a range of protein sources. It’s a myth that vegans are all deficient in protein though – it’s completely achievable to get enough protein from plant sources (1/2 a cup of beans has the same amount of protein as a 90g steak).
Who may need more
Apart from pregnant and breast feeding women, adolescents and those with certain medical conditions, it’s rare that anyone needs more than this recommended daily amount of protein. If you’re training very intensely however it’s important to check that you are easily meeting this goal – use an app or an online tracker (try MyFitnessPal or Nutrino) to check exactly how much you’re getting in your diet.
Written by Ruth Tongue