High Protein Diets: Facts and Benefits You Need to Know
We here at My Muscle Chef are big on protein. Our meals, snacks and sides are all famously high in protein. But what does a high protein diet actually do for your body? Well, a lot, as it turns out. Read on to find out why you should make sure you hit your daily protein needs and how best to do so.
Protein Intake: At a Glance
- Protein is key to helping fuel, build and recover lean muscle mass. If we don’t consume enough protein on a regular basis, we tend to see our muscle mass decrease.
- Active individuals should consume 1.6 - 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
- A high protein diet can help with satiety to keep you feeling fuller for longer and stop regular food cravings.
- Ideally, a high protein diet should consist of a variety of plant, seafood and animal-based protein sources, as they are all rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Your body may begin to resist protein as early as 30 years old, so maintaining a high protein diet is key for general health.
Protein Intake: A Deeper Look
Protein-based diets have come a long way from the days of bodybuilders chowing down on chunks of steak and chicken 3-4 times a day in the pursuit of a physique that could rival Schwarzenegger in his prime. But is it healthy to consume a high amount of protein? When it comes to protein, most people fall into two camps:
- The “I need protein immediately after exercise for all the gains so I can get swole” camp
- The “protein will damage your kidneys and consuming it is not sustainable for the environment” camp
It turns out the answer is closer to the first camp, but how does it work?
What does protein do exactly?
Protein is one of three macronutrients that the food we eat is made from and is a key fuel source for thousands of processes within the body.
If we don’t consume enough protein on a regular basis, we can see our muscle mass literally deplete before our eyes.
Once ingested, protein is broken down into amino acids to help fuel, build and recover lean muscle mass.
If we don’t consume enough protein on a regular basis, we can see our muscle mass literally deplete before our eyes, as our body needs protein for energy and relies on our muscle mass as a backup to dietary sources.
How much protein should I be eating?
Do we need to consume bucket loads of meat or powdered protein every day to get the results we want? Well, protein intake guidelines are actually based on one's bodyweight.
For general health and to avoid malnutrition, it’s recommended we consume 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Essentially, your weight x (0.8g to 1g) = your total daily target of protein to avoid malnutrition.
For more active individuals, who are burning more energy, things are a little different. Regular trainers looking to maximise their recovery and limit the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), are recommended by nutrition gurus to consume 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein x their bodyweight per day.
Feeling overwhelmed, like you’re back at school, sitting through a biology class? Don’t be. We’ve simplified it for you.
Ideally, the total amount of protein you receive from the above calculation should be divided into 4 serves per day i.e. breakfast, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and dinner. For example, an active 80kg male would be required to consume (80 x 1.6g - 2.2g) 128g - 176g per day, so ideally, divided across the three meals and snack, 32g - 44g of protein each time they eat.
This guide can be used when meal prepping or choosing between which quick option to grab for lunch when running between meetings. Remember, this is to ensure you recover properly and don’t feel too sore the next day. You can literally eat yourself into feeling better! That’s the dream!
“Most people consume nowhere near the amount of protein required at brekky and in the mid-afternoon.
This is why when they sit down for dinner, they’re so hungry they could eat a whole horse!” - Ryan Pinto
Which type of protein is best?
When we assess protein quality, we’re actually examining how easily a type of food can be absorbed by the body, i.e. its bioavailability.
There are a number of convenient options that account for the reduced bioavailability of plant-based protein.
Different protein sources are absorbed at different rates; some much more easily than others. Researchers have found animal-based protein to absorb better than plant-based sources.
However, these days, there are a number of convenient options that account for the reduced bioavailability of plant-based protein by increasing the serving size of protein included per serve. This allows people to easily pick between options, depending on what they feel like at the time and on the types of protein to which they have access.
How do high protein diets work?
Now you know what protein is and how it can help improve your recovery, let’s look into some other benefits of a high protein diet.
A higher protein diet can help with satiety to keep you fuller for longer and stop regular food cravings.
Apart from its proven ability with muscle recovery, a higher protein diet can help with satiety to keep you fuller for longer and stop regular food cravings. Food-based protein digests at a slower rate compared to refined carbohydrate foods.
As a result, it keeps you feeling full for many hours, especially when mixed within a meal containing fibre and healthy fats. This can also help with improving your body composition and losing unwanted fat mass by limiting the intake of discretionary foods i.e. all the naughty, delicious processed stuff like cakes and chocolate.
Plant-based proteins have been found to be especially adept at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A high protein diet has even been found to have broader reaching effects than just increasing your strength and muscle mass. A high protein diet can assist with chronic conditions such as:
- Blood glucose control
- Cardiovascular diseases
It does this by helping to maintain a lower blood glucose level in the body. Plant-based proteins have been found to be especially adept at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Is a high protein diet safe to consume?
One of the biggest myths associated with protein is that a high protein diet can cause kidney damage. This is just that; a myth! This belief is born from the fact that a high protein diet may be damaging to those with a pre-existing kidney disorder.
A high protein diet is definitely safe to consume on a daily basis.
If you do not fit this bill, however, a high protein diet is definitely safe to consume on a daily basis. Optimally, a high protein diet should consist of a variety of plant, seafood and animal-based proteins, as each of these sources are high in naturally occurring micronutrients, which can assist with reaching your daily vitamin and mineral requirements.
See below for a great guide of different protein sources to help you smash your daily protein goals!
Do we need more or less protein as we get older?
Get ready to educate everyone at your next family BBQ, while you tuck into a perfectly cooked steak. Your new knowledge of high protein diets will be an important topic for the whole family, especially those who aren’t spring chickens anymore!
As we age, our protein requirements increase.
Funnily enough, eating a bit more spring chicken would be of great assistance to those who’ve lost their status as one. Technically speaking, what this means is, as we age, our protein requirements increase. This is due to an “anabolic resistance” mechanism, which unfortunately means our bodies require more and more protein to maintain the same level of muscle mass.
This mechanism can be triggered as early as 30 years old if living a less active lifestyle and unfortunately, we continue to become more resistant as we age. So much so, the protein requirements of people over the age of 60 are similar to that of adolescents.
Hence, it’s not only important for you to maintain a high protein diet to ensure optimal recovery when the body is worked out, but it’s also important for your parents and those over the age of 60 to make sure they’re consuming enough protein to maintain their strength and muscle mass.
So, now you know all there is to know about protein and why you should be having plenty of it every day, what better to do than jump on a My Muscle Chef order and stock up? It’s the tastiest way to look after your body.