When it comes to the fitness industry, there is one word that always seems to come to the forefront: Protein.  

Now why is that?

Is it because Jacked N Tan Ken from the local gym said you gotta eat it to get big?

He’s partly right.

And while athletes and strength and conditioning professionals, especially those involved in strength and power sports including bodybuilding and powerlifting, have an interest in dietary protein and the use of protein supplementation, it’s also just as important for the stay at home mom to understand nutrition basics to know how to best meet her kids’ nutritional needs.

There are a few reasons why. The word protein is derived from the Greek word “proteios,” meaning “first rank of importance.” It’s vital to sustain life.

Protein is composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, like carbohydrates and fats except that proteins also contain nitrogen, which separates it from carbs and fats. Unlike plants, which can derive their nitrogen from the air, humans must consume their nitrogen from dietary sources: protein.

Protein basically is found in two forms:

1.     Complete proteins

2.     Incomplete proteins

Protein quality is one of the issues that vegans have to consider, being that they consume only plant-based proteins. When relying on lower-quality proteins, it’s important to consume a variety of plant foods that provide a wide spectrum of amino acids.

Strict vegetarians and vegans must plan their diet carefully to ensure an adequate intake of all essential amino acids and get enough complete protein.

How much protein do I need in my diet?

The recommended amount of protein for sedentary adults (low physical activity) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight or .36 grams per pound of bodyweight. This amount is what the average, sedentary person should consume to obtain what is known as nitrogen balance.

Now I’m going to assume that by reading this article on my blog you’re more than likely physically active and trying to build muscle/ lose bodyfat so even if your nutritional knowledge isn’t very extensive, you have some understand that protein intake is important for building muscle.

So does that mean you need more protein?

The question of whether bodybuilders and athletes need more than this recommended amount is still up for debate. What is now known is that excess protein (<40% of total Calories) in the diet does not cause kidney damage or other adverse effects as originally was thought.

Another benefit of taking in extra protein than is recommended is it requires more energy to break down than carbohydrates. This means your body will be burning more calories to break down and absorb protein, than it would other nutrients.

Because it takes more energy to break down, this also means more time. The result is protein is held in the stomach longer than equal amounts of many carbohydrates. This increases what is known as satiety from meals. Satiety is a measurement of satisfaction or "fullness" from a meal. This is especially beneficial to those of us seeking weight reduction through appetite control.

 Based on current research, the protein requirements for athletes range from 1.5-2.0 g/kg body weight, assuming that caloric intake and protein quality are adequate.

Daniel Saunders