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PROTEIN 101. WHAT DOES IT DO AND HOW MUCH DO WE NEED?

PROTEIN 101. WHAT DOES IT DO AND HOW MUCH DO WE NEED?

As health devotees, we are all familiar with the word ‘protein’. It’s hard to read a fitness article without it being mentioned – why we need it, how much we should consume, what builds muscle best.

Protein comes from the Greek word meaning ‘prime importance’, so we think it’s important to know exactly what this crucial nutrient does for us.

WHAT IT IS

Protein is composed of long chains of thousands of amino acids. The particular sequence of amino acids determines the protein’s structure and functions. There are twenty types of amino acids:

  • Essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet. Nine of the twenty amino acids are “essential”. The body uses them to create new proteins regularly so ideally you need to consume them daily. Animal protein contains all 9 essential amino acids in each serving.
  • Nonessential amino acids are made by the body and, though important to health, they do not need to be consumed every day. Eight of these are “conditional”, meaning your body may not produce enough when sick or stressed.

WHERE YOU FIND IT

Protein is found in lots of delicious foods, including:

  • Meat, poultry and seafood                
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dairy and eggs
  • Soya products
  • Grains, legumes and vegetables

WHAT IT DOES

Protein is the building block of life – we wouldn’t survive without it. Its main job is to build, maintain and replenish our muscles, organs and tissues. It also helps with blood clotting, fluid balance, vision, immune response and hormone production.

Protein also contains energy, giving the body 4 calories per gram. It helps fill you up because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates. For this reason it’s good to include some quality protein with each meal. 

HOW MUCH DO WE NEED?

You need less than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This is around 55g of protein a day for men and 45g for women. Any more will just go to waste. People who work out regularly should consume more protein, but don’t exceed more than twice your RDA or you could harm your kidneys.

Consuming protein before and after exercise will promote muscle growth, although the best post-workout meals should include fast digesting carbs along with the protein for immediate fuel.

the author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for Hussle. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.

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