Protein is an essential macronutrient that our body needs not just to survive, but to thrive. In addition to the vital role it plays in our daily physical functions, it provides massive fitness benefits that will ensure you get the most out of your workout.
This importance is not often lost on the average athlete, but many of us still struggle to understand the essential facts about protein: how much we need, the best ways to get it and the incredible results the right amount and type can bring us.
Let’s dive into these essential facts, so you can understand why this amino acid filled nutrient is your ally in the pursuit of a healthy, athletic body.
Why Is Protein Important?
It is hard to overstate the importance of protein in our body.
In addition to creating and maintaining healthy cells, it repairs damaged tissue, helps oxygen move through the body, aids digestion, regulates hormones and provides you with energy. Without protein, your body would lack a crucial component for healthy muscles, bones, skin and blood and your health might seriously suffer. Yes, it’s that important to your daily well-being.
Additionally, protein has somewhat of a cult following by athletes and trainers around the world for its incredible exercise benefits.
Regardless of your athletic skill level, protein helps you recover fast after strain and injury, promotes muscle building and retention, regulates healthy weight and helps prevent you from feeling hungry all the time.
Simply put, if you ignore protein, or don’t have enough of it, your body and athleticism will suffer.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
For many athletes, crafting their perfect diet is the magic question. Here’s the answer:
It depends on your weight, how much you exercise and what kind of protein you’re consuming.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) suggests consuming .8g of protein per kg (or 1.76g per lb) of body weight, but many scientists and physiotherapists believe this number is actually too low, particularly for those with an athletic lifestyle.
This amount of protein typically translates to about 10% of the average adult’s daily caloric intake, but our recommendation is that you actually aim for that number to be closer to 15-25%. By increasing your protein intake to this next level, you retain muscle strength while also crafting a fat-busting physique.
In a publication by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they state that the RDA of protein is anything but excessive. They argue that double the recommended protein intake is a safe area to aim for. The benefits of a high protein diet, these researchers state, include preserving muscle strength despite aging and maintaining a lean, fat-burning physique.
They also want to make sure that people don’t read “eat more protein” as “eat more meat”. Although meat does have a lot of protein, animal-based protein can also lead to some unwanted side-effects. They recommend supplementing your diet with a good mix of nutritional options, especially vegetables and other plants high in protein. Check out our article on plant vs animal based proteins here.
At ATAQ, we recommend you spend a week or so tracking your daily food, protein and overall calorie intake to find a healthy way to incorporate protein up to the 15-25% level. Of course, you will have to keep your current body type, exercise regimen and goals very much in mind when deciding where you fall within this range.
If you are looking to bulk up, build muscle mass and increase your calories consumed per day, you should look to hit that 25% threshold or even slightly above it. If you want to slim down without risking injury or loss of muscle, head somewhere for a 15% sweet spot where you can still gain muscle while burning fat.
With our ATAQ Plant-Based Protein Powder, our low-calorie, high protein, and clearly marked serving sizes help you get exactly the amount of protein you need to throw on muscle and supplement your diet without needing to sacrifice other important parts of your diet.
What Are The Best Sources Of Protein?
Regardless of your age or goals, the type of protein you consume is just as important as the quantity, so let’s go through some foods and supplements that provide you the right kinds and amounts of protein:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Avocados: high in potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12; can be served in a variety of delicious ways (i.e. guacamole) without sacrificing protein requirements
- Guava: tremendous source of vitamin C, diabetes and heart friendly and a reliable option to help daily protein and fiber intakes
- Spinach: nearly as beneficial to you as it was to Popyeye, this veggie fills you up with vitamin A and C, magnesium, iron and, of course, protein
- Edamame: far more than just a sushi sidekick, this powerful “soybean in a pod” is a great source of protein in addition to antioxidants and vitamin K
- Peanuts: great source of iron and magnesium; healthiest variety is plain peanuts, but peanut butter is another great source of protein (albeit with much more calories)
- Walnuts: high in healthy fatty acids and antioxidants, this nut variety is delicious and packed with protein
- Pistachios: packed with protein and fiber, they have been shown to aid weight loss, improve eye health and benefit digestion
- Oats: one of the healthiest grains; potential health benefits include weight loss, lower blood sugar and higher fiber content; fantastic option for daily protein (particularly oatmeal with breakfast)
- Quinoa: higher in fiber than most grains (benefits digestion) and gluten-free; packed with all nine amino acids that make for a “complete” source of protein
- Wild Rice: a great pairing with fish/meat/lean beef, this variety contains four times more protein than regular rice
- Chicken Breast: a classic staple of high protein diets, this low-sodium meat is healthiest without the skin and provides substantial support for your muscles and bones
- Turkey Breast: similar to chicken; low in fat and calories, this is a great option for high value protein consumption
- Lean Beef: in addition to high protein content, lean beef provides you iron, antioxidants and Vitamin B12 in spades
- Tuna: low in unhealthy fat and calories; good source of protein, nutritious omega-3 fatty acids and potassium, magnesium and iron
- Salmon: provides vitamin B12, potassium, iron and Vitamin D in addition to many grams of protein; can be baked, grilled, pouched or smoked
- Shrimp: another great source of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy antioxidants and iron; mostly consists of water, so 97% of calories come from protein
It’s important to note that while meats may be a good source of protein, many of them such as red meat and fish can also have some harmful side effects. Processed red meats have been shown to increase risk of heart disease and some fish has high amounts of mercury and other substances. For these reasons, we recommend you get as much of your proteins as possible from plants.
Powders and Supplements
- Protein Powder: our favorite source here at ATAQ, ATAQ powders derive from a unique mix of pumpkin seed, rice, pea, flaxseed and chia and are chock full of ~25g of non GMO, whey-equivalent protein per serving.
Protein is great for you, easy to incorporate into your diet and is found in a wide variety of delicious foods. Whether your goal is losing weight or bulking up, this essential macronutrient packs a powerful punch that will almost certainly help you on your path to success.
As with any type of nutrient, you should analyze your diet and study your eating habits to understand how to best incorporate protein into your daily life. It is perfectly okay for your target daily grams per day to exceed the recommended dietary reference intake, but don’t sacrifice other areas of your daily diet in order to stuff yourself with protein.