The Power of Protein

CNS conf protein 2015-02-19_2-30-52You may already know that protein is an essential nutrient that keeps your body functioning well. Proteins are part of every cell in your body and help build and repair muscle, tissue, skin, nails and hair. Protein also helps build hormones, enzymes and antibodies that fight disease. Last month, the Canadian Nutrition Society in collaboration with Dietitians of Canada, hosted the Conference on Advances in Protein Nutrition Across the Lifespan.  We were there and heard updates from leading researchers in the field. Here are key highlights about the role of protein in exercise, weight loss and chronic disease management.

Dietitian’s Top Protein Tip:  Start the day with a breakfast that includes a source of protein (such as eggs, yogurt, milk, lean meat or tofu). Most of us get enough protein througout the day, but the morning meal is lacking. Read more about Best Bet for Breakfasts here.

Protein for Athletes: Eating the right amount of protein at the right time has critical implications for athletes.  To build muscle, Dr. Stuart Phillips at McMaster University recommends eating four (4) equally spaced protein containing meals per day, (0.25-0.3 g protein/kg body weight/meal), PLUS a 40 g protein intake at bedtime to ensure muscle building proteins are on board while you sleep. For example if you weigh 68 kg (150 lbs), then you would need about 20 g of protein per each meal (68 kg x 0.3 g).  Consuming 4 meals per day meal PLUS a 40 g bedtime boost would bring your total day’s protein intake to about 120 g.

For those interested in protein supplements, whey is best since it’s a fast absorbing high quality protein.

Protein for Weight Loss & General Health: Eating enough protein helps you feel fuller. Keep snacking at bay, and include at least 30 g protein with each meal, especially at breakfast.

The quality of protein is an important consideration for meal planning, especially for vegetarian diets. Adults (19 years and over) need 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. For example, if you weigh 68 kg (150 lbs), then you would need about 55 g of protein per day.  Another factor in assessing how much protein containing food you need to eat depends on the source! Foods containing high quality proteins require lower calorie intake to meet your essential amino acid (protein building block) requirements, according to Dr. Robert Wolfe, an expert on healthy aging from the University of Arkansas. For example, you may need to eat 6 times as many calories in chickpeas to get the amino acids available in one serving of lean turkey meat.

Protein for Aging & Chronic Illness: Muscle building in the body is triggered when enough of the amino acid leucine is present. When people consume small amounts of protein, the threshold of leucine needed to trigger muscle building may not be reached. Researchers including Dr. John Hoffer at the University of McGill recommend at least 30 g protein per meal to stimulate muscle building.  The tip for the ill and elderly patients may be to discourage nibbling, so they are sufficiently hungry at mealtime to eat enough protein (30 g/meal) to reach the threshold needed for muscle building to kick in.

Still have questions about protein intake? Leave a comment or contact us!


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