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There are three nutrients that the body requires in large amounts, and one of them is protein. The other two are carbohydrates and fat. These are all essential for the human body.
Small compounds called amino acid make up proteins. Hundreds of amino acids exit in nature, but the human body only utilizes 22 of them. Our bodies can produce all but nine of the amino acids that it needs. We consume nine of these essential amino acids through our food.
A balanced diet is essential as all foods contain differing combinations of amino acid. Animal proteins like meat, dairy and eggs contain all the essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins from foods like beans, grains, nuts and soy are rich in some amino acids but may be lacking in others. This underlines the need for a well-balanced diet with plenty of variety.
The way proteins work is by building and maintaining tissue. Protein is the major building block of the human body. More protein is required during periods of growth such as infancy, childhood and pregnancy. Certain people also require increased protein, namely those who have undergone surgery and active people who are consistently breaking down muscle during exercise.
How protein is spread out over the day is much more important than the amount of protein consumed. Usually, for a typical day of eating, the recommended is 10 grams of protein or less at breakfast, 25 grams at lunch and 40 grams at dinner. Since the body can only absorb and use a certain amount of protein at one time it is better to spread the 60 grams of protein over three or four meals of 15-20 grams each. The actual amount of protein needed depends on the person’s body size and how active they are. The 20-30 grams per meal is the protein goal for most people, but again this will depend on the size and activity of the person. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This is the minimum, not the maximum.
Endurance athletes generally need 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight. Strength training or power athletes require 1.2 to 1.7 per day. As much as 2 grams per kilogram of body weight to prevent muscle loss in athletes or those who want to lose weight has been recommended by research. Some common protein foods are:
Chicken, 3 ounces has 20 grams, Ground beef, 3 ounces has 21 grams, Milk, 1 cup has 9 grams, egg, 1 has 6 grams, black beans, ¾ cup has 11.43 grams, peanut butter, 2 tablespoons has 8 grams and tofu, ½ block has 18 grams.
Risks and precautions for consuming proteins are consuming more than 2.5 grams per day. Some risks would be dehydration, fatigue, taking in too many calories and passing out higher levels of the nutrient calcium in the urine. Eating more than 200 to 400 grams of protein per day can exceed the liver’s ability to convert excess nitrogen to a waste product called urea, which can lead to nausea, diarrhea and other adverse side effect. Evaluate and calculate your own need for the intake of protein and adjust your diet accordingly. Remember that protein is necessary for a healthy body!
–Dr Fredda Branyon