Friday, May 4, 2012

The importance of protein!

Your diet, what and how much of what you consume, plays a vital role in your health, appearance, energy, performance, as well as what type of results you get from exercise. The bulk of ones diet can be categorized as the following macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. All of which are necessary in ones diet. Today I am going to discuss the first macronutrient, Protein. Understanding protein is important, for everyone who cares about their health, to understand. Whether you're trying to live healthier, lose weight, build muscle, this post is for you. Hopefully by the end of this entry you will have a better grasp on it's important role and the general guidelines of protein consumption.  Most of the information I am relaying is what I learned while obtaining my NASM Personal training certification. 

Let's get started. 

What is the role of protein? It primarily builds and repairs the body's tissues and structures, however, it also assists in the synthesis & regulation of hormones and enzymes in the body, as well as acting as a source of energy when calories or carbs are too low. 

So there are 20 amino acids that the body uses. These are then broken down further into essential- or amino acids that the body can NOT manufacture on it's own, and nonessential- or amino acids that the body is able to produce on it's own. The body arranges these in different sequences in order to make the different types of proteins used in the body. For example, when it's arranged one way it creates the protein in our muscles like actin, then it rearranges the order and BAM now it's the proteins that make up the lenses in our eye balls! Our bodies are seriously cool.  So it is important that we consuming the proper essential amino acids so that our bodies are able to produce enough protein to get the jobs done. Animal meats, quinoa, whey, and soy proteins are all examples of complete proteins that contain all the essential amino acids. Rice is an incomplete protein but when paired with beans it then contains all the essentials. 

If we are on a diet that restricts our caloric or carbohydrate intake then our body has the ability to use these amino acids as energy. Now, on the other hand, as with anything, if we consume too much protein then our bodies store what they can't immediately use as potential energy aka big bad ugly fat.  On that same token, too much protein intake can also lead to heart disease, overworked kidneys, low calcium, and even dehydration. Yikes, so how do we find that happy medium? The general recommendations for the less active is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For regular exercisers and athletes like myself, or those on a low calorie or carb diet, it is important that we increase that to anywhere from 1-2 grams per kilogram of weight. This ratio generally falls between 15-30% of our calorie intake coming from protein. Here is a website that allows you to calculate your weight in Kilo's so that you can calculate how many grams of protein needed a day. I weigh 47 Kilograms, and I am very active so I generally aim to consume about 90 grams of protein a day. 1 gram of protein is 4 calories so that's about 360 calories in protein a day which falls right in between 15-30% of my 1400-1500 calories consumed daily. 

I have to consume 90 grams of protein a day but I CAN NOT consume that all in one meal- nor should I. Our bodies can not efficiently digest or utilize more than about 30 grams of protein in a single sitting. So I generally split that 90 grams up over 4-6 meals a day, so rarely do I consume more than 20 grams in a single sitting. 

Another benefit of protein- besides the fact that it repairs and heals the trauma I constantly place on my body when running and exercising but it helps keep you satiated longer. It's been shown in tests that if you eat protein in sufficient amounts regularly throughout your day then you are less likely to feel hungry for several hours after a meal and that's because it takes a while for our bodies to completely digest protein compared to the other macronutrients. This is another reason why it's important to consume adequate portions when trying to lose weight, it keeps that metabolism working and wont leave you feeling hungry! For the exercisers out there, because it takes so long for our bodies to breakdown and digest protein it is important to consume protein in a liquid form (such as milk) directly after working out because it's the quickest absorbed form of protein. That protein can get right in there and get to work. Your body's metabolism is in overdrive for about 30-90 minutes after exercise so that is the most efficient time to drink a protein drink. The liquid protein supplements I use and find most effective are hemp or whey protein powders mixed with milk, water, or in a smoothie during that 30-90 minute metabolic time frame.

I know that's a lot of information to absorb in a single sitting so I will leave it at that for now. Feel free to comment below with any questions or clarity you might need. Here is an excellent source of protein for dinner: honey mustard grilled chicken recipe that our family LOVES, side it with anything from corn on the cob, to sweet potatoes, to quinoa or brown rice! Endless options...Enjoy!


Marinade 4 chicken breasts for at least an hour in this:
                                                                   1/2 c whole grain ground mustard
1/2 c honey 
Juice from half a lemon
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Paprika
Grill. Either on the BBQ or on the stove top with a little olive oil.

Make sure you set a couple tablespoons of marinade aside to drizzle on top after chicken is fully cooked, and don't forget to let the chicken "rest" 5 minutes or so before sinking your teeth into it's juicy sweet and spiciness!


  1. Should you consume protein before exercising as well, and in what time frame?

    1. Absolutely. Both a carb and a protein should be consumed before a workout as well as afterwards. At least 30 minutes before, no more than 2 hours before. The type of protein makes a difference...example: if it's a liquid form of protein then it's safe to consume it closely to time of workout because it's quickly absorbed and can be put right to work. If it's a solid protein it's going to take longer to digest so plan on consuming it an hour out! Hope that helps!

  2. I love this recipe. The first time I made it I used the chicken in a whole wheat wrap with the mango strawberry salsa. Delicious.