Part 3: Protein:
We need protein in our diet for everything from muscle maintenance through to skin, bone and brain health, and official protein intake recommendations for basic body needs sit at between 0.75-1g protein per kilogram of body weight daily. In a previous article, we looked at different dietary protein sources, and flagged emerging evidence that protein intakes significantly higher than traditional recommendations may be more appropriate (especially for some of us).
Firstly, how much protein = high protein?
This is difficult to strictly define, but for the average person, high protein is anywhere between 1.2 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
For a 75kg person, this is between 90 and 165 grams of protein each day.
Who might benefit from a higher protein diet?
Athletes and those aiming to increase muscle mass.
- Evidence shows that higher protein intake (~1.6-2.2g/kg body weight) can enhance recovery as well as increasing muscle strength gains from resistance training.
- A more even spread of protein throughout the day (rather than large amounts at dinner but not much at breakfast or lunch) appears to be best for muscle synthesis.
Recent research indicates that older people may benefit from significantly higher protein intake than the baseline recommendations.
- Progressive muscle loss is a fact of life once we’re over 50 years of age, but higher protein intake (1.2-2kg) has been shown to help preserve muscle mass, strength and support bone health in the elderly.
Patients recovering from surgery, those with wounds and cancer-related weight loss.
- Our body and immune system require more protein to function optimally when under stress, dealing with inflammation, treatments and during healing and recovery. Meeting nutrition needs with higher protein and adequate calorie intakes has been shown to improve many health outcomes in the hospital setting.
- A high protein and carbohydrate-containing snack in the evening can help to reduce muscle breakdown during the overnight fast, and improve management of protein-energy malnutrition in patients.
Some other potential benefits of eating higher protein include appetite management, weight management and blood sugar control.
- Protein is a very satiating macronutrient (compared to carbohydrate), meaning it stays in our stomach a little longer, helping to keep hunger signals at bay.
- Eating high protein foods with carbohydrates can cause less of a spike in blood sugar, because they slow down the digestion and absorption of glucose into the blood stream.
In our next Part 4 series on protein, we will look at some practical tips including:
- why it's important to spread your protein intake out
- high protein breakfast and lunch ideas
- and some final thoughts from our dietitian on protein!
Before embarking on any dietary change, always consult your doctor or dietitian, to ensure it is right for you, and your individual health factors.
In our final Part 4 piece on protein, Marnie provides some useful tips to help you get enough protein throughout the day. Read here>
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