What foods have protein?
The highest concentration of protein is found in the actual muscle tissue of other animals. Then come animal products — eggs, milk, and dairy products. After that, grains, legumes, and nuts also contain protein, but less of it. You owe it to yourself to get familiar with the nutrient content of food.
What is complete protein?
Complete protein has all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to support human life. All animal sources are complete protein, as are quinoa and soy. Most plant sources are low in one or more amino acids and are therefore deemed less than complete.
Are plant sources inferior?
No. Although plant sources are not as protein-dense or as complete as animal sources, the amino acids they do contain are the same amino acids found in meat, dairy, and eggs. The human body doesn’t use protein per se, it uses the individual amino acids that comprise protein. So, even though most plant sources are short on some of the essential amino acids, you can get the full spectrum of amino acids by eating multiple plant sources — grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables.
Is there a way to compare different protein sources?
PDCAAS (aka, protein digestibility score) is an accepted way to compare the quality of different protein sources (relative to human needs). Milk and egg sources have a score of 1.0, which is perfect. Meats are a little lower. Other sources are much lower (for example, peanuts are 0.52). Read about PDCAAS here. Protein sources with lower scores are OK, but we need to eat more of them to equal higher-scoring protein.
Why do articles say I need 56g of protein a day?
The 56-gram recommendation is based on two faulty assumptions: (1) that you are sedentary and require only the RDA (which is 0.36g per pound of bodyweight), and (2) that your body weighs 154 pounds (a hypothetically average person).
What is the real requirement?
According to lots of research, people on aerobic exercise programs (e.g., distance running, swimming) require roughly 50% more than the RDA, so 0.54 grams per pound of bodyweight. People on resistance exercise programs (i.e., lifting weights) require roughly twice as much as the RDA, so 0.72 grams per pound. And more than that might even be beneficial.
Since most people aren’t super likely to track their protein like this, a 3-dose per day approach is probably more realistic (see below).
When should I eat protein?
To stimulate muscle repair and growth, protein needs to be eaten in a significant dose (i.e., in a meal) rather than spread out in small doses throughout the day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the traditional meals, and we should plan to eat significant protein at each one: 30+ grams of protein, 3+ times a day, 3+ hours apart is a good plan. Right before/after a workout is a good time, too.
What is the biggest dose of protein my body can put to use?
0.25 grams per pound of bodyweight (in a single meal). For a 200-lb body, 50 grams in a meal can be used for muscle repair. More than that is extra calories. For a 100-lb body, 25 grams is the limit.
Are protein powders OK?
They are great. See this article.
What about pre- and post-workout protein?
Research shows that you’ll recover faster and gain more muscle when you regularly consume protein:
- Before you train (pre-workout), and/or
- After you train (post-workout)
Results for muscle-mass gains are even better when carbohydrates are eaten along with the protein.
Is protein bad for my kidneys?
If you have kidney disease, then you should not eat a high-protein diet. Consult your doctor and nutritionist with all questions regarding diseases.
If you do not have kidney disease, research does not suggest that protein is hard on them. Eating protein has not been shown to cause kidney disease.
Why do I need more protein if I’m trying to lose fat?
A few reasons:
- In a calorie-restricted state (i.e., when dieting), more protein is needed to protect muscle mass – so it isn’t consumed by your body for energy. If you want to lose weight, you need to focus on losing the fat and keeping the muscle.
- Protein builds muscle mass, which increases your metabolism, which makes it easier for you to lose fat.
- Between 20 and 30% of the protein calories you consume are needed to actually digest and assimilate the protein. This boosts your metabolism, which makes it easier for you to lose fat.
- Protein has an appetite-suppressing effect that carbohydrates and fats do not have. Because it takes longer to assimilate, you stay satisfied longer and potentially eat less.
I don’t want to “measure everything I eat”
My pea protein has 29g of protein per scoop. My bread has 4g per slice. An egg has about 6g of protein. A 3-ounce service of most meats has 20g. A glass of milk has about 8g. A cup of cooked oats has 10g. Anything in a package has nutrition information on the label. Find out how much protein is in the foods you normally eat and memorize those numbers.
What if I don’t get enough protein one day?
Try again the next day.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as dietary advice.