Continuing my health series, today I want to talk about proteins, one of the three macronutrients. I already discussed at length about the importance of carbohydrates in my previous posts, so now it is the turn of proteins. While carbohydrates provide energy to do work, proteins provide amino acids, the building blocks for cells and muscles. Since our body is constantly replacing cells and repairing our body, it needs adequate amount of amino acids to do its work properly. There are 20 types of amino acids, but only nine of them are essential, which means our body cannot make them and we need to provide those via the food we eat. The rest of the amino acids can be made by the body.
Disclaimer: I am neither a nutritionist or a fitness adviser. I don’t have any certification. Take all my advice with a pinch of salt. I have been into health and fitness since 2008 and that is probably my only credibility. I am not liable for any health issues that might arise following my advice. Risk is all yours.
What to eat
Food sources containing all the nine amino acids are called complete protein sources. All animal sources such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products are complete protein sources. But plant based sources do not have all essential amino acids, so you will have to mix and match multiple vegetables, beans and grains to get complete protein. For example rice, whether white or brown lack some amino acids which are available in beans, so eat rice and beans together and you get complete proteins. I am a non-vegetarian, so I have not done much research into what combinations of non-animal sources will give you complete amino acids. You will have to do the research on your own :)
How much to eat
My suggestion is that 30% of your daily calorie requirements should come from good quality proteins if you plan to build muscle and hit the gym regularly. For most sedate people, 15% should be sufficient. Assuming we need 2000 calories a day, and want to get 30% from proteins then 600 calories should come from protein sources. One gram of protein will provide you with 4 calories. So you need to eat 600/4 = 150 grams of protein. If you are eating chicken for example, then 100 grams of chicken has 27 grams of protein. To meet the daily requirement of 150 grams of protein, you will need to eat 150 / 27 * 100 = 500 grams of chicken a day! Seems like a lot, but if you are lifting weights and damaging your muscle, you will need to eat crazy like that. Moreover, you will not just be eating chicken all day, you have protein in milk, rice and whatever else you eat.
If you are not as active, you can go for 15% in which case you will need about 300 calories from protein which equates to about 300 grams of chicken per day. Again, you will be eating other food along with chicken, so you probably won't need to eat as much. In a future post I will give a breakdown of what I eat in a day and perhaps it will help you understand.
Remember, when eating any food source, it does not come with just one macronutrient, for example chicken has both fat and protein and almost no carbohydrate. While beans have both protein and carbohydrates and almost no fat. So if you are trying to reach your daily requirement of proteins just from chicken, you may go overboard on the fat limits, on the other hand eating just rice and beans may lead to too many carbs. So have a balanced diet. Eating plant based diets are supposedly better than animal based proteins. I don't have a strong opinion, but I prefer animal diet :)
- Proteins help repair and build your muscle and cells
- There are nine essential amino acids that your body needs from food
- Meat, fish, eggs and dairy have complete proteins
- Eat a mix of vegan sources to get complete proteins
- A gram of protein provides 4 calories of energy
- Go for 15-30% of calories from protein