NUTRITION: PROTEIN 101
So this topic came to me, as my boyf's need for protein needed to be amped up in a major way. See he's vegan, or lets say plant based, which is a term I prefer to use, because the label of vegan can be quite intense! In any case, he started to play soccer more intensely these past few weeks, and could feel his body 'needing' more power, and protein. I do most, if not all, of the cooking at home, which I LOVE! But me being 5'9 and 135 pounds and him 6'2 and 195 pounds of lean muscle, our requirements are quite different! I would serve him LARGE portions with more beans, grains than myself as I don't really consume much of them, but this is not / did not meet his needs. SO with that being said, let's delve into the world of PROTEIN. A Macronutrient that has been tossed around so, so much in the health + fitness community. I believe we are fed soooooo much information regarding how much of this, that, that it is actually ALL too confusing. So let's simplify it a bit.
FIRST OFF, WHAT IS PROTEIN?
Protein is a macronutrient, made up of amino acids that work as building blocks in our bodies making all our new cells, including immune cells and hormones.
It’s a VITAL nutrient for everyone, but especially for growing children, pregnant women, sporty types, or if you’re recovering from an illness or injury.
Protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, so it helps to release energy into your bloodstream gradually, keeping you going longer. Which is why it's important to have it in the morning!
You get good amounts of protein from eating foods like meat, fish, nuts, legumes, beans and seeds. But other foods such as mushrooms and brown rice, and GREENS can also contain lots of protein. Along with some superfoods we will delve into later.
DO YOU EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN? (this is where it can get a little sticky, because every body is different, but here are the 'recommended amounts')
The recommended general guideline is to eat 0.8g of protein per 1 kilo of body weight, so if you weigh 55kg then you’ll need about 44g of protein every day.
* TIP: Remember, foods that contain protein are NEVER 100% protein. Even a chicken breast is only about 25% protein.
* TIP: Guidelines are only meant as a guide, not a rule – so if you exercise intensely, you’ll need more. Aim for 1.5-2g per kilo of body weight.
SIGNS YOU MAY NEED TO INCREASE YOUR PROTEIN
Learning to listen to your body is the first step in the journey to health! This is what my boyf did, he is VERY in tune with his body.
Here are some signs that show you might benefit from more protein:
You don’t recover well after exercise and get very sore muscles.
After eating you feel hungry again within 2 hours.
Your mood swings are getting out of control.
You crave sugar and caffeine to keep going.
Your hair and nails are getting thin and brittle.
Feeling weak and tired has become the norm.
Any wounds, bumps or bruises are slow to heal.
NOTE: Make sure you’re digesting protein properly!
Adding a steak to your plate isn’t necessarily going to solve signs of low protein if you don’t have sufficient stomach acid, which is vital to break down protein and help you absorb all the essential amino acids from your food. That is why some people just don't do well with meat based protein. I will keep on saying this, but listen to your body. Our bodies are beautiful, and unique and therefore require different things at different times, moments in our lives. (AKA you might be vegan for 20 years, and than all of a sudden start eating fish or chicken again!
Here is a fun test to try if you suspect low stomach acid.
* TIP: Check your stomach acid with this simple test; stir 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda into a 250ml glass of water and drink. You should start burping within 2 minutes due to the reaction between your acid and the drink. If it takes 3 or more minutes to start burping, you have low stomach acid.
Make sure you chew all protein foods especially thoroughly! Digestion and assimilation begins in the mouth.
Shoot a TBSP of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar before ALL of your meals
Eat something bitter with your protein to stimulate your stomach acid and other digestive juices.
A rocket salad with plenty of pepper and lemon juice is perfect.
Add more easily digestible sources of protein like Organic Spirulina Powder – it contains ALL the essential amino acids, which means it is the only vegan source of complete protein!
WAYS TO GET MORE PROTEIN
To keep your energy levels and moods balanced, make sure you add a portion of protein to EVERY meal and snack. Most people have no problem eating enough protein for lunch and lunch dinner, but breakfast and snacks tend to be trickier (this is me! I usually have juice or a smoothie first thing, and since my blender broke (yes my blendtec!) I've been sticking to juice and fruit as it's so cleansing in the morning, and my body thrives on it, but I don't think I'm getting enough protein! Adding in spirulina and a couple of brazil nuts will do the trick).
Here are my suggestions for breakfast VEG + NON-VEG INCLUDED as I do believe being VEG is not for everyone, and I will never, ever, ever convince you otherwise : High protein breakfast ideas:
VEG: Paleo granola (make your own with nuts, seeds, coconut flakes) and serve with coconut milk or coconut yogurt
Add protein to your smoothie with one of these great sources: 1 TBSP ground almonds + brazil nuts + macadamia nuts/ 1 TBSP nut butter or tahini
1 TBSP Organic Spirulina.
If you like protein powders, please choose carefully. Go for one with the fewest ingredients, that isn’t full of additives. Try a pure rice, hemp or pea protein powder or a grass-fed whey protein (only option if you are choosing non-veg options). You can add a scoop to baking mixtures, pancakes, or your smoothie.
NON-VEG: 2 eggs, with some smoked salmon, avocado and spinach.
High protein snacks:
Make your own energy balls with chopped nuts, coconut oil, raw cocoa powder + cinnamon
NON-VEG: A hard-boiled egg is a perfect, portable snack.
NON-VEG: Flaked poached salmon on a piece of buckwheat or other grain-free bread.
A small handful of nuts with an apple.
Add a teaspoon of Organic Spirulina Granules to a hummus and eat with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks or wheat-free seed crackers.
*TIP: If you’re vegetarian or vegan, mix your protein sources to get the complete set of amino acids. Try a 3-bean salad sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, or a risotto with mushrooms and wild rice.
Beware: eating too much protein can be a problem!
You may choose to make an effort to increase your protein substantially because you want to balance your moods, energy or you’re training extra hard at the gym, but there’s a big difference between eating enough protein and too much! REMEMBER - balance in e v e r y t h i n g!
Excess protein increases acid and nitrogen in the body, which puts your kidneys under extra strain, so eating much more protein than you need could cause kidney problems. We still have to keep in mind our alkaline / acid balance, as protein, especially animal protein, is quite acidic and takes long to digest (8-12 hours!).
If you’re feeling well and full of energy then don’t worry, but if you’re feeling heavy and notice that your urine is dark, you may be overdoing it... listen to your body! It is constantly and always sending you signals.
Simply reduce the amount of protein you’re eating, perhaps switch to more vegetarian sources that are less acidifying, drink more water and eat protein alongside lots of extra green vegetables to reduce the impact. When in doubt ADD more greens, and than the protein.
There is definitely more I can delve into about protein - it's sources, amounts, recipes, etc... but this is where a Holistic Health Counselor, like myself or a Nutritionist can help you! Are you eating enough, if not, what can we do, meal plans, recipes, shifting diet + lifestyle around + mental freedom, and awareness!
Happy Wednesday everyone! Let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to delve into things a little deeper a BOOK a FREE 15 MIN CONSULT with me.
love & light