how much protein should i eat in a day
Protein plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy diet. While many believe that meat is the best source of protein, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that replacing animal protein with pulses, nuts, and grains can contribute to longevity and overall well-being.
how much protein should i eat in a day
In 2016, new dietary guidelines placed increased importance on non-meat protein sources. It is not necessary to completely avoid meat and dairy, but it serves as a reminder that a diverse diet is essential for maintaining good health.
What exactly is protein? Proteins are often referred to as the building blocks of life because they break down into amino acids that aid in growth and repair within the body. Our hair, skin, and muscles are all comprised of the proteins we consume. Animal products, as well as three plant sources - soy protein, quinoa, and Quorn - contain all the essential amino acids required for optimal health. Some plant-based protein sources may lack one or more essential amino acids. This has led to the notion that animal protein is a "complete protein." However, it is not true that vegetarians will experience protein deficiencies or that specific combinations of plant-based proteins are necessary. Consuming a variety of plant protein sources each day provides all the essential amino acids the body needs.
How much protein should you consume? Most adults require approximately 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (around 45g for the average woman and 55g for men). This is equivalent to about two portions of meat, fish, nuts, or tofu per day. As a general guideline, a protein portion should fit within the palm of your hand.
In the UK, the average protein consumption is nearly double the recommended amount. While this is not inherently problematic, the source of protein matters. Diets heavy in meat have been associated with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and may even shorten lifespan. It is advised to incorporate more legumes, fish, and no more than 70g of red and processed meat into the daily diet.
How can you reduce animal protein consumption? One approach is to gradually incorporate meat-free meals by choosing one day each week to go meat-free. Instead of immediately replacing meat with plant-based proteins, start by substituting it with foods like fish, dairy, and eggs. If meat-free meals seem challenging, consider replacing a portion of meat in dishes such as stews, chili, or Bolognese sauce with beans or lentils.
How do I calculate how much protein I need?
Do athletes require more protein? The belief that high protein intake is necessary for active individuals is a myth. Athletes who engage in training sessions more than once a day should consume twice as much protein as the average adult. However, most individuals already meet their protein requirements. It is recommended to distribute protein intake throughout the day, combined with carbohydrates for energy, allowing protein to focus on muscle repair and growth. Prominent athletes such as Germany's Strongest Man Patrik Baboumian, Ironman champion Dave Scott, and British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead have found success while avoiding meat.
Is a meat-free diet always healthier? Opting for vegetarian options does not automatically guarantee a healthy choice. Mock meats like nuggets, veggie burgers, and hot dogs may contain protein but can also be high in salt. Vegetarian options such as cheesy pastas or vegetable curries in creamy or oily sauces often have high fat, saturated fat, salt, and calorie content. To reap the health benefits, it is advisable to replace meat with more vegetables, legumes, soy, and whole grains.
Explore our list of ten meat-free protein sources and try out our top ten meat-free recipes for a flavorful and nutritious dining experience.