From high-protein yoghurts and chocolate bars, to super-sized steaks and protein shakes, supermarket shelves are increasingly being filled by products marketed at helping you build muscle and stay lean. But is there such a thing as eating too much protein? And do we only need it if we're gym goers or athletes? The facts might just surprise you...
Proteins are compounds made up of amino-acid molecules and are essential for cell growth and body repair. Protein is particularly important in sports performance as it can boost glycogen storage, reduce muscle soreness and accelerates muscle repair and growth. And since protein helps muscles heal faster, it also reduces your risk of injury, too.
Animal sources of protein include fish, meat, eggs, milk and cheese. Plant-based sources include nuts, seeds, pulses (beans and lentils), tofu, edamame beans, meat substitutes like soya mince, and some grains. A high protein intake has been shown to help maintain a healthy immune system.
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In addition to decreases in muscle mass, not getting enough protein can result in hair loss, skin breakouts and weight loss. Too much protein, however, is linked with kidney problems and calcium loss.
The Department of Health recommends that adults who aren't especially active should consume (roughly) 0.75g of protein per day for each kilogram they weigh. This equates to around 55.5g for men and 45g for women (between two to three portions of protein a day). For strength and endurance athletes, it is recommended that you consume between 1.2g to 2g of protein per kilogram of body.
While it is common practice for athletes to consume protein shakes, you can easily get enough protein from food sources. In fact, the average amount consumed daily by a 19-64-year-old man is 87.4g and woman 66.6g, according to theUK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which is well above the recommended daily intake for an average adult. For example, one 125g chicken breast contains about 35g of protein.
If you avoid animal products, you can easily get enough protein from plant-based sources. For example, 30g of cooked black beans contains eight grams of protein. However, only some plant products, such as soy beans and quinoa, are complete proteins, which means that they contain all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Others vegan sources are missing some of these amino acids so eating a varied diet is even more important.
These high-protein recipes are perfect for gym goers and athletes who are looking to increase their protein intake. They're packed full of nutrient-dense vegetables which are guaranteed to leave you feeling fuller for longer. You can choose from street food favourites like tacos or a Korean bibimbap, or make your own Wagamama-inspired meat-free katsu curry!
Bored of eating the same old breakfasts? Check out my healthy collection of quick and easy recipes such as overnight oats, porridge and posh bagels.