Protein is an essential macronutrient for everyone, whether you’re a couch potato or an athlete. But how much should you be getting? And should you consider a supplement? We find out.
Protein, the macronutrient that keeps our metabolism revved up is a building block not only for our muscles, but also for our hair, skin and nails. It is also better at keeping us feeling full as compared to fats and carbs.
Just how much protein you should take depends on factors like your fitness goal, activity level and body mass. Here are the key tips to keep in mind to help you reach your health and fitness goals more quickly.
(Also read: 9 Signs You Need To Eat More Protein)
Know Your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for a healthy female would be 58g or 0.8 to 1g per kg of body weight. A whole skinless chicken breast gives you about 53g and a large egg provides about 6g protein.
But the RDA merely sets out the minimum levels that you should take, says George Chia, brand representative of Holland & Barrett Singapore. Those who are training to bulk up and build strength should consume about 1.5g per kg of body weight, he adds.
How do you know when you are OD-ing on protein? You will experience weight gain, bad breath and constipation. But worse than that, taking too much – more than twice your required intake – can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis or worsen a kidney problem.
It’s best to get it from whole foods
Esther Yee, consultant nutritonist at Oni Global Group, GNC recommends consuming protein through your daily meals. If needed, you can top up a good supplement such as protein powders, she says. Your best bets are meat and seafood, but a bigger piece of meat will also pile on more carbs and fats, so be sure to remove the skin and ask for less rice or noodles when you eat out. Also, go for white meat as a healthier, more heart-friendly option.
Plant-based protein is great too
Vegans and vegetarians should get their protein from soya, tofu, nuts, beans and grains. You can consider popular options like tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas and quinoa. However, while you can easily get 25g of protein from downing a 100g steak, it takes about 270g of lentils to get you the same amount of protein. Also many high-protein plants lack some essential amino acids that come with animal proteins – they help with protein absorption. Thus, you may need to speak to your doctor about boosting your diet with an amino acid supplement.
The best time to take your protein is after your workout
“It is essential we are consuming enough protein, especially so after exercise. Protein is made up of all different amino acids, which our body takes and puts into excellent use, repairing and rebuilding our muscles,” says Steve Tan, international business development manager of health brand Naturelova.
A 20g portion is recommended within an hour of exercise to aid muscle recovery when our body is particularly receptive to absorbing protein. But more than just considering the amount to consume, Steve shares: “It is important to make sure that you are consuming a high quality, pure source of protein that is easy to digest and free from any synthetics and added sugar.”
If you’re on supplements, one that’s made from pea protein that is sprouted and fermented is more easily absorbed by the body and is great for digestive health. Whey protein on the other hand may cause bloating for those who are lactose-intolerant. As a rule of thumb, the first ingredient of a protein product should be well, protein. Avoid products with tricky ingredients that you don’t recognise as they may be alternative names for sugar such as dextrose and maltose.