What is protein, and why do I need it?

Protein is a macronutrient that helps support the growth and maintenance of our body tissues. Eating the right amount of protein keeps your immune system functioning properly, maintains heart health and respiratory health, and speeds up the recovery process after exercise. Protein is vital to the proper growth and development of children as well as maintaining health in older adults. Eating high quality protein can help sustain heathy skin, nails, and hair, in addition to building muscle.

How much protein should I consume? What are different sources of protein?

The recommended intake of protein is .8 g of protein per kilogram or .36 g per pound of body weight. So for a 150-pound person, 54 grams of protein is recommended per day. Typically, 10-15% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein. Meat, poultry, pork, fish, eggs, and dairy are all excellent sources of protein. However, animal products are not the only foods that provide protein; tofu, nuts, beans, grains, and veggies also are excellent ways to incorporate protein into your diet.

What time of day should I eat protein?

It is particularly important to consume protein after exercise since muscles need it to recover and grow. A portion of protein (15-25 g) is recommended within 30 minutes of exercise, when your muscles are receptive to protein synthesis. It is also best to consume protein throughout the day at all meals in order to keep you full and sustained during the day.

What if we consume too much protein?

The body has a limited ability to store protein, therefore, if too much is consumed, then a portion will be excreted in the urine. However, the other portion is readily converted to glucose or fat depending on the body’s current needs. With that said, protein has the same fate as carbohydrates or fat if too much is consumed. Therefore, it is important to monitor the amount of protein in your diet to avoid weight gain.