Why is Protein Important?
No matter your body type, age, or athletic prowess, protein is a vital component of any diet. Protein is a macro-nutrient, meaning that it should make up a significant portion of a person’s diet. Protein serves as a building block for skin, muscles, bones, and cartilage. It’s also responsible for rebuilding muscle mass, repairing tissues, and creating hormones and other chemicals throughout the body. Because of the many functions protein serves, it’s important to consume substantial amounts daily. The human body does not store protein like it stores glucose, vitamins, and minerals, so protein must be a substantial component of anyone’s daily meals.
How Much Protein is Enough?
The amount of protein a person should regularly consume depends on a variety of factors. The average adult should consume about 1 gram of protein per 2.5 pounds of weight. However, if an adult is a long-distance runner or swimmer, they should consume closer to 1.5 grams of protein per 2.5 pounds, while adults who are practicing consistent heavy lifting should consume closer to 2 grams of protein per 2.5 pounds of body weight. The activities a person enjoys are just one factor in determining protein intake. Age, gender, pregnancy, and illness are just a few more factors that determine how much protein a person should consume daily. Because there are so many factors at play, consulting a nutritionist is a reliable option for determining how much protein you should be implementing in your diet.
Why is Protein Important for Athletes?
For those who practice sports or simply live an active lifestyle, protein becomes even more important. When you’re constantly active, your body is consistently breaking down muscle fibers and rebuilding them, resulting in muscle growth. Muscles simply cannot be rebuilt without protein. In order for athletes to reap results from their training or make any progress towards their goals, they must maintain sufficient protein intake.
What Foods Contain Protein?
The most common and frequently advertised sources of protein are generally meat and animal products. Red meat, poultry, eggs, whey, and dairy products all contain substantial amounts of protein. This poses a challenge for athletes who don’t eat meat or dairy. While the reasons behind a person’s choice to abstain from these foods are multitudinous, the need for protein remains. Fortunately, protein isn’t solely found in the aforementioned foods. Processed foods such as tofu and tempeh contain plentiful amounts of protein at 8 and 16 grams per 3-ounce serving, respectively. Spirulina, legumes, beans, edamame, chickpeas, dark, leafy greens, and potatoes are all other sources of plant-based proteins. Plant-based dairy products such as almond milk or plant-based yogurts also supply some protein to the consumer. While meat-based products provide a higher quality protein, long-term studies have shown that consuming large amounts of red meat can lead to heart illness. Therefore, plant-based proteins are diverse, worthwhile additions or substitutions in an athlete’s diet.