After a blissful weekend of relaxation, I thought I would plunge full force into Monday by demystifying the truth on protein…
In the western world we consume far more protein then our bodies actually require. Studies show that even a bodybuilder only requires 0.82g/kg/day of protein to maintain his physique, which for a 200 lb man is around 74g/day: A 5 oz chicken breast alone contains 40g!! If your household was anything like mine growing up, each meal was centred around a hefty portion of animal protein, accompanied by a small serving of starch and a vegetable. The thinking was that in one sitting, the family was able to target 3 of the 5 major food groups. Today, what we now know is that this way of eating has drastically contributed to multiple chronic illnesses, including kidney and cardiovascular disease, as well as osteoporosis. My mission today is to educate you on what types of proteins the body requires, how to avoid these illnesses and how much is enough protein in your diet.
Lets start off by understanding what a protein is: In the simplest terms it is a structure built up of a sequence of amino acids. There is a variety of 20 individual amino acids which foods provide, each combination results in a different protein type, used for different bodily functions. From repairing and building tissues to immune support, proteins have a detrimental role within our bodies. When it comes to quality, animal proteins have taken the stage, leading us to over consumption. As a “complete protein” this title gives animal protein its claim to fame but understanding how the body uses consumed proteins, can quickly rectify this myth. Of all the amino acids our body needs, there are 9 in which our body cannot produce itself and must be obtained solely through our diet. Animal protein, just so happens to have these 9 essential amino acids included in its sequence, making it COMPLETE.
Is animal protein, truly superior?? Your body takes these animal proteins in through the digestive system, breaks them down into smaller sequences or individual amino acids and then releases them into an “amino acid pool”. When your body requires a specific protein for a function, it pulls the amino acids required for the particular protein from this “pool” and builds the specific proteins required. These 9 essential amino acids are not only found in animal protein but they are also found in abundance in plants as well: Vegetables, grains, beans & lentils more specifically. By taking in a variety of plant-based foods (as I so often talk about), you can also obtain the necessary essential and non-essential amino acids very easily and without even consuming animals at all. Lets compare: a 50g beef burger contains 10.2 g of protein and half a 225 g can of baked beans has 11.5 g of protein (see the link to the article below).
The advantage to eating a primarily plant-based diet? You will steer clear of chronic illnesses I mentioned above which are linked with the consumption of animal protein.
How much protein does our body need to stay healthy and to avoid resorting in its own protein for energy?? The easiest way to determine this is to ensure you are consuming a enough calories in a day (you’re not starving) and from primarily plant-based food sources. It is almost impossible not to obtain the daily recommended protein, especially being in abundance as we are in a 1st world country.
The conclusion to all of this: Your body is going to break down all the proteins you provide it with, so it really doesn’t matter where the protein comes from!!
Resources: Nutrition for Sport and Exercise 2nd Edition, Marie Dunford & J. Andrew Doyle (Pg: 172)
Here is an awesome article to delve deeper: http://www.vegetarian.org.uk/factsheets/Protein-vegetarian-vegan.pdf
Very interesting article for athletes!! http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/5-plant-based-athletes-that-blow-the-protein-myth-out-of-the-water/
Also: I highly recommend the movie “Forks Over Knives“, which discusses the link between animal protein and chronic disease.