Nutrient spotlight: protein
Protein is important for almost every process in the human body. Adequate protein intake is necessary for cell growth and repair, production of hormones, to maintain electrolyte balance and to maintain a healthy immune system. However, as with many things, more does not necessarily mean better.
Most people don’t realize how much protein they are actually getting in their regular diet. Many recreational athletes believe that they need to take protein supplements. If protein and energy is adequate in one’s diet, then excess protein from supplements is merely providing excess calories (which will likely be stored as fat).
Further, proteins function most effectively in the body when we consume adequate energy from carbohydrates and fat.
The protein requirement for the average person is 0.8 g/kg body weight/day (0.36 g/lb/day)
For example, a 68 kg (150 lb) person would require about 55 g of protein per day.
Elite athletes require more protein: 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight/day (0.5-0.8 g/lb/day). The low end of this range includes non-vegetarian endurance athletes, whereas the high end of the range is suitable for vegetarian and strength athletes (body builders and weight lifters).
For example, a 68 kg (150 lb) athlete would require 75-120 g of protein per day.
Sample diet with protein content:
|Mini wheats||1 svg||210||5.5|
|Milk (2%)||1 cup||122||8|
|Coffee with cream and sugar||1 cup||75||1.2|
|Greek salad||1 svg||90||2|
|Mashed potatoes||1 svg||166||3.8|
|Ice cream||½ cup||266||3.7|
As you can see, a person eating a typical diet (meeting the calorie requirements of a non-active 150 lb individual*) is consuming more than enough protein at 75.2 g compared to their recommended intake of 55 g. Add physical activity to their daily routine, and their food intake increases (as will their protein intake). For example, if a 150 lb individual requires 2500 calories per day to maintain their weight, and follows the same diet (but with larger portion sizes), they will be consuming closer to 100 g of protein per day (almost doubling their adequate intake). A 150 lb elite athlete will require much more than 2500 calories per day to maintain their weight.
*this calorie requirement is an estimation.
Examples of other food items rich in protein:
|Burrito with rice and beans||1 svg||260||8|
|Pita and hummus||2 small + 1/4 cup||254||9.8|
|tofu||3 oz (85 g)||84||9.4|
|tempeh||3 oz (85 g)||167||15.5|
|Bread with peanut butter||1 slice + 1 tbsp||170||7.1|
|Berry-hemp breakfast smoothie||1 svg||330||8|
|Salad with lentils and millet||1 svg||360||16.5|
|Quinoa salmon patties||1 svg||260||21.7|
Note: Pure vegetarians (vegans) need to consume protein from a variety of sources (to ensure they are getting all of the essential amino acids). Examples include: vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes (beans).