There is no denying that protein is the bees knees when it comes to fitness and health, but do we really know how to actually use it to our advantage? 🧐.
..Yep, I thought you didn’t. That’s why you’re here (horraayy)! Don’t worry, you have come to the right place to understand the facts.
You see my friends, there is a structure to this that is very important.
Proteins are a major structural component of muscle and other tissues in the body. They are used to produce hormones, enzymes, and haemoglobin (the protein in your red blood cells). For proteins to be used by the body, they need to be broken down (aka metabolized) into their simplest form called amino acids. Altogether, there are twenty amino acids that are needed for growth and metabolism, and twelve of these (eleven in children) are ‘non-essential’, meaning that they can be made by our body and do not need to be consumed in the diet. The remaining eight (known as ‘essential’) can’t be made by the body, and therefore need to be consumed in our diets.
There have been numerous clinical studies that have shown the superior benefits that high-protein diets have on weight loss, metabolic health, and preservation of lean body mass (3)(4). Nevertheless, when choosing the type of protein to eat, it’s important to take into account the quality of the protein, and the nutritional benefits that it can provide (5). This is because different protein sources have different structural components that are unique to them, which in turn have different effects on the body (in laymen’s terms, different proteins do different things in the body so you need all of them to get a desired result). You can consume protein from a variety of dietary sources. These include foods of animal and plant origins, as well as in supplements. Below are just some of the best types of protein foods you can consume for health:
Animal protein sources
Usually, all dietary animal protein sources are considered to be complete proteins, meaning they contain all the ‘essential’ amino acids. Below are just a few animal dietary sources:
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Two medium eggs have around 14 grams of protein, with the egg whites containing the most amount of pure protein.
Chicken Breast is one of the most popular protein-rich foods as it is about 80% protein, and is low in fat. One grilled chicken breast without skin contains 54 grams of protein. Chicken breast is a good way to meet some of your body’s protein needs without also consuming a lot of fat.
Milk is a source of high quality protein, and is high in calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin (vitamin B2). The high amount of protein that milk contains is due to 2 main components:
- Whey — Which accounts for 20% of protein in milk, and provides high levels of the essential and branched chain amino acids.
b. Casein — Casein is a complete protein and makes up around 80% of the protein found in cow’s milk.
Greek yogurt has a higher amount of protein than milk and is full of calcium, vitamin B12, potassium, as well as being a probiotic. A tub of yogurt (around 150 ml) contains around 17 grams of protein.
In addition to being high in protein (100g of lean ground beef contains 26 grams of protein), lean beef is also full of vital nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron.
Tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids in addition to protein. One can of Tuna (140 grams) contains 27 grams of protein.
White Fish & Oily Fish
White fish such as cod, haddock, and pollock are healthy protein sources and contain a good amount of omega 3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and are also good sources of vitamins A and D, but are slightly higher in fat.
Things To Consider
Animal proteins provide the highest quality rating of protein food sources. Nevertheless, it is best to eat these foods in moderation as some of these foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. High fat levels can increase your susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases.
Plant Based Protein Sources
Vegetable sources of protein provide nutrients such as phytochemicals and fibre that are extremely important and beneficial for health.
Unlike animal sources of protein, vegetables are low in fat and thus you can consume them in high portions without raising your saturated fat and cholesterol levels. The following foods are good sources of plant based protein:
Peanuts and peanut butter are both high in protein, fibre, and magnesium. One ounce of peanuts (28 grams) contains 7 grams of protein. Although they are a good source of protein be mindful when eating nuts as they are also high in fat.
Moringa powder is a fantastic source of plant-based protein. The pods contain around 20.66% of protein content, the leaves have 44% content (and contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein), and the flowers have 31% protein (6). It is perfect for those looking to up their protein intake to support muscle growth and to maintain muscle mass, and is also good for vegans and vegetarians who may not be getting enough protein in their diet (7).
Oats are one of the healthiest grains available, and are a good source of protein (it contains a higher amount of protein than most other grains). It also contains a good amount of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that aid in protecting against heart disease. Only 100g of raw oats contain 16.9g of protein! This is due to the main protein found in oats is avenalin, which makes up 80% of the protein content in oats.
Quinoa is considered a complete protein (meaning that it provides all essential amino acids) making it an excellent plant based protein source. Studies have found that the protein quality of quinoa is comparable to casein in cow’s milk.
Lentils are an excellent source of plant based protein, and are a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. They are high in nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, and manganese, in addition to having a good amount of fibre. One cup (around 198 g) of boiled lentils contain 18 grams of protein.
Quorn / Mycoprotein
Mycoprotein is a protein that is a product of a naturally occurring fungus. It is rich in protein and is often used as a meat replacement product.
Things To Consider
Although plant based proteins are a fantastic low fat alternative, they are also ‘incomplete’ — meaning that they are generally lacking one or two essential amino acids. However, when vegetable proteins are combined, they provide all the essential amino acids that you need. So for those who want to get their protein from vegetable sources (i.e. vegetarians and vegans) you will need to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes to ensure that you are consuming all essential amino acids.
Want That Dream Body? Protein Will Save The Day!
The foods above are some of the best protein rich foods for health. But due to their composition, you need to understand the pros and the cons for both. Protein from animal sources are an important source, however, just like the old saying goes ‘too much of one thing can be bad for you’ it is important to be mindful when consuming a diet of high animal based proteins due to the potential health concerns associated with them. On the other hand, plant based proteins may provide similar benefits as protein from animal sources, but without the side effects. Although this is the case, they are an ‘incomplete’ protein source, so eating a combination of plant based protein is beneficial to ensure that you are consuming all essential amino acids.
To get a sufficient amount of protein for your goals (whether it’s for overall health, muscle building, or weight loss etc) a diet that includes a combination of both animal and plant based protein is a good option to ensure you don’t compromise on protein quality from the different sources that could affect your health in the long-term, but still gain the nutritional benefits that enable different parts of your body to function properly.
Alongside nutrition, you need a good and effective workout plan in order to sculpt your body. Exercises such as different types of planks, squats, lunges, push-ups, shoulder circles, punches, mountain climbers, burpees, and weight lifting are ideal and can all be massively beneficial for your body sculpting goal. For any more advice on exercise or nutrition feel free to book a free consultation.