What Is Protein & Why Do We Need It?

 

Firstly, What The Hell Is It?

Protein is a powerful packet of energy made up of a number of amino acids essential for muscle growth, proper hormone, reproductive and cognitive function.

Like all macronutrients, Protein is an essential building block for the body to perform at its best and it is often misunderstood – or in the case of women, under-eaten.

Whether it is a lack of understanding, time or effort, many people forget to include protein with their main meals and opt for carbohydrate-based dishes leaving them feeling sluggish and set up for one hell of a blood-sugar rollercoaster. Now hopefully if you are reading this and visiting the Proper Protein site you have woken up to the fact that a good amount of protein throughout the day simply makes you feel better – your muscles perhaps aren’t as sore from your workout, you are not quite as tired, lethargic or hangry throughout the day and as a result you’re not reaching for the cookie jar by 3pm.

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How Much Should I Be Eating And When?

As women, we should be aiming for 20-40g of protein per meal, however this may vary depending on weight loss goals, activity levels and/or body composition. The best way that I have found to determine my own protein requirements is The Healthy Chef: Teresa Cutter’s protein calculator.

Protein intake in particular is vital to athletic physical performance and despite what the food pyramid may say – provides a far cleaner source of fuel than carbohydrates for your workout. When eaten Before Exercise Protein has been shown to curb appetite and stabilize blood sugar and it has also proven the most effective nutrient form of muscle repletion after exercise. For this reason I suggest a relative amount of protein consumed within 45 minutes of finishing exercise, because the increased blood flow to the exercised muscles makes these tissues more receptive to nutrients.

 

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What Should I Be Eating?

Post-Workout nutrition is a tricky one. The heightened stress response of the body following exercise will mean that our digestion will be less than optimal. This may explain why a heavy or large meal soon after a workout may feel like it just ‘sits there’. This is why the ‘Post-Workout-Shake’ has become so popular. A high-quality grass-fed powder mixed with water (or mylk of choice) provides a far more accessible form of glycogen and testosterone to the muscles to help them repair and yes – even grow.

If you can sit down to a meal in around 45 minutes to an hour of exercising however, it is vital that your plate focuses on a large portion of vegetable-based carbohydrate, palm size (or otherwise increased) intake of protein and an addition of healthy fats. Now if you are still unsure what that might look like I have included a table diagram below comparing a combination of both animal and plant proteins, showing the relative amount of protein to each portion size.

And while a palm size portion of protein may not sound like a whole lot, depending on your deadlift or your Teresa Cutter Protein Evaluation, this may be a great deal higher. This level of protein intake however does put excess strain on the body and it is very common for women to complain of digestive discomfort as a result. This is why a supplement or powder can be a great option – maximal gain with minimal digestive effort.

Many women however complain of digestive discomfort no matter the meal or the timing. From experience, I have seen the benefits of taking a digestive enzyme with each meal.  HCL (Hydrochloric acid) in particular will help the body break down protein faster and access all the micronutrients needed to fuel your cells and hormones.

So please ladies, eat your protein – or sip it – and see lean muscle mass increase, fat stores decrease, hormones balance improve and overall energy levels spark.

 

Food Source Quantity Amount of Protein
Animal Sources    
Meat and Fish    
Chicken, breast, skin off, roasted 100g 34 grams
Lamb, chops 100g 28g
Beef 100g 27g
Snapper 1 x fillet (approx. 170g) 45g
Salmon 1/2 x fillet (approx. 180g) 39g
Tuna, tinned 85g 22g
Ham 100g 17g
Bacon, whole rasher 100g 22.2g
Sausage, beef, grilled 100g 13.9g
Sausage, pork, grilled 100g 16.8g
Dairy and Eggs    
Eggs 1 x large, poached 6g
Milk, cow’s, full fat 100mL 3.5g
Milk, cow’s, skimmed 100mL 3.7g
Cheese, cheddar, full fat 100g 24.6g
Fetta, goat/sheep 100g 17.4g
Ricotta, reduced fat 100g 10.1g
Cream cheese, full fat 100g 11.1g
Haloumi 100g 21.3g
Yoghurt, natural, full fat 100g 6g
Plant Sources    
Legumes    
Red lentils 100g 6.8g
Yellow Split Peas 100g 6.6g
Quinoa 100g 4g
Chickpeas (garbanzo), tinned 100g 6.3g
Cannelini beans 100g 6.2g
Kidney beans 100g 6.6g
Tofu, firm 100g 12g
Tofu, silken 100g 8.1g
Nuts and Seeds    
Almonds, raw 25g 6g
Walnuts, raw 25g 4g
Brazil nuts, raw 25g 3.6g
Cashew nuts, raw 25g 5g
Peanut butter, no salt or sugar 1 Tbs 6g
Pumpkin seeds, raw 25g 6.1g
Sunflower seeds, raw 25g 6.7g
Bread and Grains    
Bread, gluten free 100g 9.8g
Oats, whole, raw 100g 2g
Rice, white 100g 2.7g
Rice, brown 100g 2.9g

 

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