Protein is a type of nutrient made up of lots of tiny substances called amino acids (a very small type of protein). Of the 20 amino acids only 9 are essential - meaning that our body cannot make them so we must acquire them from our diet. The best sources of protein in our diet come from foods that contain ALL of the essential amino acids - these are known as complete foods or quality protein as they contain all the protein we need to optimise growth and development.
Dietary sources of quality protein include:
Other great sources of protein include:
- lean meat, fish and poultry (eg. chicken, turkey etc)
- low fat cheese
- yoghurt and custards
- legumes (eg. chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, baked beans etc)
- nuts and seeds
- wholegrain breads and cereals
Despite what many us think - the majority of us get more than enough protein in our diet without the need for supplements. Yes it is true that athletes, including body builders, do require additional protein to support their exercise regime, however, many of us over do it. It is important to remember that the human body has a limit to how much protein it can use everyday.
This limit has been set at:
2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
So, if you are 70kg - 140g of protein per day is your limit. Any more will just be excreted in your urine.
In terms of encouraging muscle growth - the timing of your protein intake is just as important as the amount you consume over the day.
- Always have a pre-exercise and post-exercise snack to encourage your body to use the snack as an energy source rather than your tissue stores (that is, your body muscle and fat stores)
- make sure the snack contains both carbohydrates and protein . The carbohydrates will be used as the ‘energy’ source while the protein will be available to promote muscle growth.
For example, a 150g-200g tub of yoghurt, 250ml glass of flavoured or plain milk, 2 eggs on a piece of toast, 150ml liquid meal replacement such as Up & Go etc
Remember that a healthy diet is a balanced diet - so try and get your protein from a range of sources.
For more information on what would make an ideal pre and post exercise snack or a meal plan that will compliment your training regime it may be worthwhile to see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. Best of luck with your training!
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