Food is the necessity of life for all the living beings. As we all need to eat to survive, it is also important to have a balanced diet throughout to fulfil our nutrient requirements. There are many nutrients out of which protein, being one of the most important must be included in our diet on a regular basis for better health and benefits. A daily protein intake for a healthy body is vital.
What is Protein?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients found in the food that our body needs in larger amount. It is essential to take care of the protein intake to build muscle, tissues, its maintenance and repair. Proteins are the building blocks of our muscle mass.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. A human body uses 22 of them out of many amino acids existing.
Our body can produce some amino acids itself through the natural functioning which are also called non-essential amino acids. However, 9 of them must be consumed through the diet which are also called essential amino acids.
Lean sources of proteins like non veg, have all the amino acids where as the vegetarian sources of protein lack some which should be balanced with other foods to complete the chain. We shall discuss later in this article about the food sources of protein in more detail. First, let’s discuss about the benefits of protein.
Benefits of daily protein intake for a healthy body
- Increases Muscle Mass and Strength: Since muscle is primarily made up of protein, a high protein diet can help you gain more muscle mass and develop better strength. The more muscle mass you have, the healthier you are.
- Reduces Cravings: Studies show that having more protein increases the satiety which is a feeling of fullness after eating. As, protein takes time to digest. It helps us prevent any extra cravings to eat more, thus reducing the chances of an unhealthy weight gain.
- Maintains Bone and Joint Health: People who eat more protein, suffer less from bone and joint related conditions like osteoporosis, fracture, arthritis & knee pain as it helps them build stronger bones and joints.
- Maintains Blood Pressure: As protein helps us reduce the risks of obesity and enhances fat burning, it also helps us maintain our blood pressure as well which is good for our heart health too. It reduces the chances of lifestyle diseases like hypertension.
- Helps Body Repair: Eating more protein can help your body recover fast post-injury by maintaining and repairing the cells and tissues. It can also help you recover better after heavy workout sessions by repairing your burnt muscles and building them stronger to keep you all energized for the next session.
- Prevents Aging: As protein helps us increase muscle mass, maintain our physique, helps reduce the chances of lifestyle diseases, it of course help prevent aging. Apart from that it is also good for our skin and hair health since it’s the building block. We are made up of protein from skin to hair to nails.
How much should be our protein intake per day?
The range of protein intake recommendations can vary according to the different age groups and lifestyles. As we age, we need more protein for better body functioning to prevent the signs of aging and weakness.
Similarly, a person who hits the gym everyday, workouts on a regular basis and has an active lifestyle compared to a person with a sedentary lifestyle needs more protein for muscle repair.
As an exercise regime including strength training sessions tend to burn our muscles which need extra protein for its repair and build them stronger than ever. A combination of strength training with a high protein diet is one of the most important factors to be followed to stay fit.
Here are the daily intake recommendations for protein intake. You can also use a protein calculator to check on the daily requirements.
Also, taking care of the protein intake during pregnancy is very important too. A pregnant woman needs more protein compared to a non-pregnant woman as she is also supposed to raise her growing baby in the womb. The range can anywhere increase from 0.8g to 1.1g of protein/kg/day.
Sources of Protein
- Some of the common and rich sources of protein are – eggs, chicken breast, lean meat, pork.
- Sources of protein intake for vegetarians – dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese (paneer), soy products like tofu and chunks, lentils and beans etc
- If you’re not able to fulfill your requirements through food alone, you can also consider getting a whey protein powder. However, do not rely on supplements before focusing on the intake of natural foods.
However, make sure to combine the lentils with a carb source like rice or bread to make it a complete source with all the amino acids. Combining two incomplete protein sources so that the amino acids in each food make up for those lacking in the other food, is called mutual supplementation.
Right Time for Protein Intake
There are no restrictions on fixing a particular time for the consumption of protein as such but ideally, it should be included the most in breakfast for a good kick start to the day and protein intake after workout for better recovery.
What’s more important is to center all the meals at least around one protein source and fulfilling the daily requirement in total.
FAQs about Protein Intake
These are some of of the most common questions people generally have while being doubtful of their protein intake. Here are their answers:
Does protein help with hair growth?
- Yes, protein indeed helps with hair growth. Keratin is the type of protein which is a major component of our hair. It is a fundamental element that determines our hair growth.
- A high protein diet maintains not only hair growth but also its quality, when combined with a balanced diet in overall with all the micro nutrients too. However, if you have a major problem of hair fall due to other reasons, consult with your doctor.
Does protein intake cause acne?
- It is not proven for protein specifically to be the main reason behind acne. Sometimes, the heat produced through protein rich foods like eggs might not suit us but it again depends on person to person and more research is needed on the factor causing acne.
- Sometimes, dairy can also be the issue. Make sure to check on your allergies like lactose intolerance first, your skin care routine, your stress levels, genetic problems and overall diet and hydration.
Does protein intake cause kidney diseases?
- Essential protein intake is not harmful to your liver or kidneys, as long as they are free of damage or disease. The main function of your kidneys is to act like a water filtration system so make sure to hydrate very properly, drink even more water when your protein intake is higher and you are good to go.
- Remember, too much of anything is bad after all.
Does protein intake cause constipation?
- If you do not get enough fiber in your food and do not stay hydrated, a high protein diet can cause constipation. Protein is essential to maintaining an active and healthy routine, however, you should also consider taking care of other factors for your gut health. Make sure to have more of whole foods like vegetables, fruits, fiber rich grains, have enough fermented foods for probiotics and drink water for good digestion.
Does protein intake cause headache?
- Many people follow a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates to promote weight loss. It can have negative side effects, like headaches as most of the energy is derived out of protein foods alone to keep the body going due to a lack of carbohydrates. Furthermore, this method of eating is not typically safe for the long term, and you also run the risk of gaining back lost weight once you begin eating normally. You can always balance every nutrient according to necessary requirement rather than eliminating a whole of it.
The Bottom Line
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for growth, repair and maintenance. It is the building block. Make sure to have a high protein diet on a regular basis along with taking care of the consumption of other nutrients too, which is extremely important.
Remember, too much of anything is bad, so make sure that your protein intake is just as per your lifestyle needs. Not more or less.