There is lot of conflicting information out there about how to have a balanced diet and, in particular, how much of your diet should be protein and which are the best protein foods. Here are some top tips for figuring out what’s best for you, particularly if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, are trying to lose weight or build muscle.
How much protein?
The estimates for the correct amount of protein in the daily diet can vary widely, depending on who you ask, as well as on the size, gender, health goals and well-being of the person in question.
Protein is an essential nutrient required for almost every biological function. Without it, we could not survive. As a broad rule of thumb, most people need between 50g to 80g of protein in their diet daily to satisfy their basic metabolic needs. However, if you are exercising vigorously, recovering from an illness or operation or trying to gain muscle mass, your body’s protein requirements are likely to be higher (as a result of the additional strain placed on your system and the need to repair and re-build more tissue than you would normally do). In this case, you can generally use about 150g of protein per day.
When should I eat protein?
You might be surprised to hear that, when it comes to eating protein, timing can make a big difference in terms of how your body metabolises and utilises it. It is therefore important to match your protein and starch intake to your body’s need for protein in the morning and starch in the evening.
It is now widely accepted that the metabolism requires protein between the hours of around 6am to 2pm, whereas starch metabolism is more effectively achieved between 4pm and 10pm.
By being aware of the workings of your metabolism and endocrine system (the glands which secrete a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream to regulate the body), you can be more effective at fueling your body. This should, in turn, lead to higher energy levels and the achievement of your health goals. On the other hand, if you ignore how your body works and what your metabolism is trying to tell you, this can lead to an imbalance that can have an adverse impact on appetite and weight and can lead to fatigue. For instance, if you do not have a sharp appetite for breakfast, this could be an indication that you need to re-balance and kick-start your metabolism with protein.
Ideally, breakfast should be a nourishing protein meal – the main meal of the day, but it can still be quite a light meal.
Protein rich foods
When you think of protein, you are likely to picture meat or other animal products, such as dairy. However, as many vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists will know, there are a number of alternative protein sources out there that not only match the quality of protein found in animal products, but even contain a higher level of nutrients and a lower level of fat. Plus, these alternative sources are not acid-forming and do not carry the same risk of contamination or toxin overload.
So what are these alternative protein rich foods? Well, they are plant proteins. Plant protein foods, such as hemp, quinoa, wheatgrass and other green vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds can supply your body with ‘first class protein’. In other words, proteins that contain all of the amino acids, including the essential amino acids that cannot be manufactured by the body itself and must be obtained from the diet.
Despite general opinion, plant sources can supply you with complete, balanced and natural protein that can be easily digested, absorbed and utilised by your body. By contrast, animal proteins are very hard to digest and place a strain on the digestive system. Plant-based proteins also tend to contain a higher level of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibre and other essential nutrients, missing from traditional protein sources.
What are the best protein shakes?
If you haven’t got the time to research and then source high protein plant-based foods on a daily basis, vegetarian- and vegan- friendly protein shakes can be the perfect solution. Specialist Supplements Ltd has a wide range of complete, balanced and natural protein powders and meal replacements derived from plant and vegetable superfoods (including an organic blend), which have been fortified with additional nutrients. Instead of going for single-ingredient products, why not give our unique combination blends a try for a real protein and nutrients boost?! Simply click on any of the links above to view products.