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Protein 101

Protein is one of the three macronutrients we need to survive. You would have heard about protein intake and making sure you eat protein when you’re training.  But what does it actually do, how much do we need, and where do we get it from?

Protein is the most essential macronutrient as it plays a crucial role in cell growth and repair. Adequate protein intake is crucial when engaging in physical activity as it is key to growing and maintaining muscle mass. If you are in a calorie deficit, it’s even more important that you consume adequate protein so that you can maintain as much muscle mass as possible while losing body fat. We don’t want to use our hard-earned muscle as fuel and adequate protein intake will help prevent that. 

Protein is also quite satiating and can help you feel fuller for longer after a meal. It also has the highest thermic effect of all the macronutrients, meaning it requires more calories (energy) to digest and absorb than either carbohydrates or fats.

How much protein is adequate? 

As a guideline, your protein intake should be 2-2.5 times your bodyweight in grams. For example, if you weigh 70kg, your protein intake should be between 140g and 175g per day. Whether you choose the higher or lower end of that range will depend on your lean muscle mass, your overall calorie intake and the resources you have access to. 

It’s also important to note that grams of protein doesn’t refer to the total weight of protein rich foods, it refers to the actual protein content in those foods. For example, 100g of chicken is not equal to 100g of protein; there’s approximately 20g of protein per 100g of chicken breast (raw). 

Which leads to another question – should you calculate protein intake of foods raw or cooked? It doesn’t matter either way as long as you know approximately how much you’re eating. So 100g of raw chicken cooks down to about 75g, which would have 20g of protein. However, 100g of cooked chicken has about 30g of protein. It’s not a huge difference but it’s helpful to be aware of it. 

Other than chicken, what foods are protein rich? 

The obvious ones are meat (especially lean meat, which has a higher protein to fat ratio), and protein powder. Egg whites, tuna, eggs, low fat dairy, tofu, and tempeh are also good sources of protein. There’s protein in a variety of sources and you can get adequate protein by eating a variety of foods; however, if you aren’t able to get it through just whole foods, supplementing with protein powder is an easy way to boost your intake.  

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