24th February 2015
Posted by: Bridget Okeeffe
For those of you who, like me, find fitspiration more of a pull to the gym than thinspiration… read on. No lean body that is worthy of appearing on any instagram account with the word ‘fitspo’ in it would have got that way without understanding protein.
The first thing you should know about protein is that it is an important component of every cell in the body. Not only does your body use protein to build and repair tissues but also to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. If that wasn’t enough it is also needed for building bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. The long and short of it… protein is super duper important so let’s get educated on it and find out which are the best sources of it.
Emily Skye – One of my all time favourite fitness girls
Something that makes protein quite different is that the body cannot store it, unlike fat and carbohydrates. While this does mean that we need to constantly be giving our bodies the source of protein that it needs, we mustn’t be too hasty to flatten a cow carcass for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Surprisingly you actually need less protein than you think. For active women you will need 5 ounces a day which is about 141 grams, for men it’s 7 ounces (198 grams). What’s important is that you are getting this from good food sources. This goes for all of us; veggies, vegans and carnivores! I wrote an article a few months back on the benefits of Spirulina. Make sure you work this magical green algae into your diet if you are serious about getting good protein into your body. According to Davey Wavey (you might find it hard to take him seriously with a name like that, once you see him shirtless you might change your mind) if you eat too much protein there are a number of side effects such as weight gain, dehydration, increase in liver enzymes, and kidney problems. While this only happens if you are having extreme amounts, it’s still a good idea to make sure you are sticking to the daily recommended amount.
Studies have shown that a very high protein diet is not easy to maintain and after about 6 months people tend to bow out and return to bad eating habits. What I think this suggests is that you need to make sure that, while you become more aware of protein, you don’t change your diet to anything that is too extreme. You know that I am an advocate of high protein, high fat, low sugar diets but make sure you’re not doing anything that you can’t see yourself maintaining for the rest of your life!
The type of protein that you are choosing will have a role to play in whether you are able to lose weight and/or maintain the eating regime. The best sources are fish, poultry, beans, nuts and whole grains. Try to avoid protein that also contains saturated fat like red meat. If you want to build muscle make sure you are having protein rich meals immediately after resistance training.
I would love to know what your favourite protein fixes are as I’m always looking for things to entice me away from red meat (which is hard given that I am South African!)