How many times have you read or heard that protein is a major key to eating a balanced diet and feeling satiated? But how much is enough?
Firstly lets discuss why protein is so important to our diets. Basically protein is involved in everything from head to toe. From maintaining and creating healthy muscles, improving bone health and remodeling our joints, tendons and ligaments, it also helps support a healthy immune system. Protein is a component of anti-bodies, and if you do not have an adequate supply of antibodies then you are unable to fight of infection. Protein also plays a role in our hormones as it is involved in many of our metabolic processes.
So how much do we need? The US dietary guidelines recommend approximately 0.36 grams of protein per pound. So for a 125 pound person this would accumulate to 45 grams of protein per day and for a 200 pound person, 72 grams a day. Bear in mind these are the minimal amounts and not the optimal, so depending on your needs it may often be higher. The amount of protein we require is not so much based on sex but age, activity levels and the type of activity. As we age we tend to lose muscle, therefore ensuring you get enough protein in your diet may preserve muscle mass and strength. On the other end of the scale, another time to ensure you are consuming enough protein is during times of active growth i.e, childhood and adolescence.
Protein consumption is also higher when people are trying to lose weight so as to lose fat not muscle.
Ensuring we spread our protein intake throughout the course of the day is important. During the day our bodies go through periods of time where we have muscle protein synthesis i.e. protein is used to help form new muscle and then there are times when we are experiencing muscle breakdown. The optimum goal is to have more protein synthesis than breakdowns. Therefore the best way to spread your protein intake throughout the day is to eat 25 to 30 grams at meal times and then approximately 10 to 15 grams in snacks.
What are the best ways to meet the above protein requirements? Always food first. However, protein shakes, bars, powders and pre-mixed beverages can obviously assist with intake and are ideal to meet the demands of the 10 to 15 grams required in snacks throughout the day.
What should you look for in a protein bar? The number one rule is ensuring you find a bar with Leucine, an amino acid that is the building block of protein. Leucine tends to have the most pronounced effect on muscle protein synthesis. A bar with whey protein as its primary protein is going to be the one that provides the most leucine. Also for increased health benefits look for a bar with a high fiber content.