how much protein you really need and ways to get more
You may be familiar with protein; perhaps you associate it with gym goers, or perhaps it conjures up an image of meat, fish or a protein shake.
Well, gym goers do need protein, and meat and fish are great sources of protein, however, in reality, every single one of us needs protein, and there are in fact a huge array of protein-rich foods.
Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three macronutrients that makes up the food we eat. It’s essential for growth and repair in the body (2); our muscles, bones, skin and cartilage are actually made up of protein (1).
After water, protein is the second most abundant compound in the body, so it makes sense that we need to be eating enough, to keep our body’s supply topped up.
How much protein do you need?
The British Nutrition Foundation recommend that adults eat 0.75g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day(3). So, if you weigh 70kg, you should aim to eat 52.5g of protein every day.
There are some people however who may require more protein such as those who exercise a lot as well as older people who need to maintain muscle mass.
Including a protein source in every meal, is a safe way of ensuring you’re getting enough, without having to manually weigh your food. As a rough guide, The British Dietetic Association says a portion of animal-based protein should be palm-sized (4).
The best sources of protein
Ready for a quick hit of science? Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids in total however, nine of these we can only get through our diet. These are known as ‘essential’ amino acids (5).
Animal based sources of protein are an easy way to get these essential amino acids; they contain all nine of these essential amino acids, making them ‘complete’ proteins. Think meat, fish, eggs and dairy products (6).
For perspective, a small chicken breast contains around 30g of protein, and one egg contains around 6g.
Whilst it may be easier to incorporate protein into lunch and dinner, breakfast can be a trickier one to navigate.
Try eggs on toast or even protein-rich greek yoghurt with fruit and oats. Eat Natural Protein Granola is another way to ensure you get some protein first thing; each serving contains 9.2g of protein. Or try combining granola and Greek yoghurt for even more protein power!
Plant based protein
There are various sources of protein that don’t come from animals; ideal for vegetarians, vegans or those who simply don’t want to eat animal-based foods at every meal.
Foods such as lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds and even grains such as quinoa, contain good levels of protein. Most of these plant-based proteins – aside from tofu– are ‘incomplete’ proteins, meaning they don’t contain all nine amino acids (7). So, it can be useful to combine two or more plant-based proteins to ensure you are getting all the essentials.
Plant based proteins tend to contain a little less protein; for example, six almonds contain 3g of protein whilst 100g of chickpeas contains 7g of protein.
Lentil-based curries, three-bean chilli and lentil lasagne are more examples of protein-filled meals that contain plant based proteins. Scrambled tofu for breakfast is a nice vegan option as is oats with nut butter and seeds. There are also a multitude of plant-based protein powders available too.
If you’re a snacker, focus on protein-based snacks to help keep you fuller for longer. Studies show that protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which is why many weight loss plans will often recommend increasing protein intake.
Try carrot sticks and hummus, a handful of nuts and seeds or try one of the ‘protein packed’ Eat Natural bars such as Protein Packed Peanuts & Chocolate, which packs in an impressive 10g of protein per bar.