Having a balanced diet is an incredibly important part of staying fit and healthy, along with regular exercise on your own, with friends or with a PT. Protein is an important part of that balanced diet and can be found in a variety of foods. Some will also choose to supplement this intake by having high-protein yoghurts or protein drinks. But what is protein and why is it an important part of our diets?
What is the role of protein?
Protein is a macronutrient and it has a range of important roles within the body, primarily around the building, maintenance and reparation of the tissues in our bodies. Our muscles, hair and skin are all made from proteins.
Protein is also important for a range of wider functions:
- Enzymes, a type of protein, are important for muscle contraction, digestion and energy production.
- Fibrous proteins give structure to your body’s cells, such as collagen, keratin and elastin. These are important for maintaining strong and healthy tendons and ligaments (collagen), skin, hair and nails (keratin) and for helping return tissues, such as the lungs, to their original shape after stretching (elastin).
- Proteins help create immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, to help the body stave off infection.
- Proteins such as haemoglobin and lipoproteins are used to transport important substances through your body, such as vitamins, minerals and oxygen.
- Protein helps curb snacking cravings.
Why is protein important when training?
When exercising, or exerting stress on your muscles in any way, micro-tears occur throughout the muscle fibres. Protein, as the body’s building block, is required for repairing your muscles after exercise. When protein stocks are sufficient, muscles grow stronger and bigger after exercise.
To get the greatest benefit, it is best to eat protein in the 15-60 minutes after your workout
, this is what is known as the anabolic window.
How much protein do I need?
The amount of protein you need depends on your body weight - because protein builds and repairs the body, you need more protein for a larger body and less protein for a smaller body.
A good rule of thumb is to consume 0.75g of protein for every kilo of body weight
daily. This works out to about 45g of protein every day for the average woman, and 55g for the average man.
If you are looking to build mass, you will need to increase your protein intake to around 1.2-1.7g of protein
for each kilo of body weight.
Ways to incorporate protein into your diet
There are many ways to add protein to your diet including whole foods such as meat, milk, eggs, nuts, peas, lentils and beans. There are also plenty of high-protein foods specially created for muscle-building and recovery, such as protein smoothies, bars, gels and baked goods.
There are some health concerns over the effect of eating too much meat
, so if you are eating a lot of protein, it’s important to get it from a range of sources, including plant-based ones such as peas, beans and lentils.
A good way to ensure you have healthy, high-protein food readily available is to prepare your meals in advance, commonly known as ‘meal prepping
’. This makes it easier to make sure you’re getting the right amount of protein & other macronutrients and stops you from reaching for unbalanced snacks.
Some snacks are, however, high in protein and very helpful for eating between and after workouts – take a look at our blog on healthy snacks
Find out more about nutrition
If you want to learn more about nutrition and how it supports a training plan, take a look at our Elite Nutrition Personal Training Package
, specially developed to give learners qualifications in Gym Instructing and Personal Training, as well as a Level 4 Certificate in Nutrition for Weight Management and Athletic Performance.