To keep it simple, protein is a nutrient found mainly in meats, dairy products, nuts, tofu, legumes, eggs, and so on. Our hair, skin, muscles, bones, and almost every cell in our body are made up of protein. We need protein to enable our bodies to restore and regenerate cells. Besides that, protein also boost metabolism, helps with satiety and therefore curbing your appetite, which in turn plays an important part in reducing weight.
Protein comprises of essential and non-essential amino acids. Our body is incapable of producing essential amino acids and thus, maintaining a balanced diet containing essential amino acids is important for our health.
So how much protein do we need daily? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. The amount varies depending on one’s gender, health condition, activity level, and fitness goal. However, it is recommended that the daily allowance of protein for an average individual is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram; or 0.35 grams per pound of body weight per day for general health. For athletes, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, depending on training.
Whey is one of the common and relatively inexpensive types of proteins available in the market. It is one of the two protein fragments of milk, the other being casein. Since whey protein is highly digestible, it very useful for meeting targeted daily protein consumption and post-workout recovery. Whey protein contains a high level of the amino acid L-cysteine, which is said to be effective in alleviating deficiencies that occur during aging and diabetes, as well as other conditions.
Likewise, the amount of whey protein consumption varies on a case-by-case basis. According to the recommendation made by Examine.com, if you are an athlete or highly active person attempting to lose body fat while preserving lean muscle mass, a daily intake of 1.5-2.2g/kg bodyweight (0.68-1g/lb bodyweight) is a good goal. If you are sedentary and not looking to change body composition, a daily target of 0.8g/kg bodyweight (0.36g/lb bodyweight) is optimal.
Approximately 70-80% of milk is made up of casein. As casein is derived from milk, it generally offers the same benefits of whey protein but with a different release process. This is due to its gel-forming capabilities which results in a slower rate of digestion. Such nature allows casein to provide a steady release of amino acids over a period of time and this makes casein an excellent choice as an anti-catabolic protein.
If you are seeking for a protein that allows your body to stay full while providing the necessary protein for meals, then casein would be a good option. In terms of daily dosage, the recommended amount by Examine.com is the same as per the amount stipulated for whey protein.
Soy protein, as its name suggests, is a plant-based protein derived from soybeans which contains all of your essential amino acids. If you are allergic to dairy-based proteins, then soy protein may serve as a good alternative. It is claimed that 25 grams per day of soy protein may reduce the risk of heart disease.
For the average female, it’s recommended that you take 71-75g of soy protein for light workouts; and between 86-92g if you are doing long workouts. As for the average male, the recommended intake is 96-101g for light workouts; or 117-123g for long workouts.
Pea protein has recently gained its popularity in the fitness arena. This power-packed source of protein is gluten, egg, soy, and dairy-free thus making it suitable for people who suffer from food allergies. Some research shows that pea protein may also be as effective as whey protein at inducing satiety and building muscles. But the amino acid profile of this protein is not complete—it lacks certain amino acids—and this it is not advisable to rely solely on pea protein as your main source of protein in your diet.
If you are doing regular resistance training, 1.2-1.5g/kg of pea protein is recommended to aid muscle growth. Otherwise, it is recommended for you to take only 0.8g/kg.
This form of protein is a suitable supplement for:
Similar to pea protein, it is worth noting that brown rice protein is not a complete protein as it is low in lysine, hence, one should always incorporate other protein supplements to complete the essential amino acid profile.
The recommended intake for brown rice protein is the same as that of pea protein: 1.2-1.5g/kg for those doing regular resistance training; or 0.8g/kg for sedentary individuals.
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