Consuming enough protein is a necessity to maintain a strong immune system, bone density, elastic and lubricated tendons, plus, protein is the backbone in helping you not only to build muscle, but in weight loss, and to improve aging. Basically, anyone and everyone can reap benefits from eating more protein. To assist your body in staying healthy, make sure you eat high quality proteins, this means eating foods that have all the essential amino acids your body needs to stay strong. These foods primarily come from animal-based food sources, or a handful of plant-based proteins such as pea protein.

Not all proteins have the same properties nor are they equivalent to each other. Understanding this is the first step you need to know before you begin to add protein into your diet.

Protein-infused foods seem to be everywhere. We can now purchase items such as high protein breads, cereal bars, and pancake mix. Some of these items may not be considered “unhealthy” for you, but they might be misleading as to where the protein content is coming from or how viable to your diet that protein may be.

All of this information can leave us in a whirlwind and at a loss for understanding. Don’t be to hard on yourself, understanding the difference between high-quality protein and lesser-quality protein is pretty simple. Having the facts or knowing the right questions to ask can make all the difference in you receiving the best quality protein to reach your goals.

HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN? WHAT DOES THIS CONSIST OF?

Higher quality proteins not only have specific sources they come from, but how your body reacts and functions to those proteins is also a dictator of the quality level. Performance of protein consists of three major categories: your body’s ability to break down protein, the amount of amino acids in the protein and if your body can utilize those amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks of so many functions within the body: Building muscle, repairing skin, correcting imbalances as well.

When we eat protein, the body breaks in down into each amino acid and begins to channel them to the  areas that require them.

This is the number 1 reason why understanding protein quality and protein sources aren’t always equal. Some protein sources have all the amino acids you need, those that the body can make and can’t make. And other protein sources can’t survive our digestion process, meaning we never have the ability to digest them and giving our body the fuel to repair itself.

Typically, animal proteins such as dairy, eggs, and meat are considered high-quality sources of protein. They contain all amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids. When foods contain all amino acids, including all 9 essentials, they are considered complete proteins. Vegetarian protein sources such as soy, hemp, legumes and grains typically are not complete proteins except for pea protein. This means you need to mix a variety of plant-based sources to try to consume all amino acids including all 9 essential amino acids needed for proper repair and recovery.

TEN HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN SOURCES

  • Dairy products; milk, whey proteins, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Seafood and fish
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Bison
  • Pork
  • Pea Protein
  • Soybeans
  • Blended plant-based sources such as legumes, greens and grains

 

WHY ARE AMINO ACIDS ARE SO IMPORTANT IN OUR DIETS?          

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, meaning, these are what make up protein and protein is essential for every part of our bodies. Similar to protein, amino acids aren’t always created equal either. Amino acids play different roles in our bodies, some combine to serve specific benefits like the branched chain amino acids. This specific blend is a combination of 3 amino acids that are responsible for us building muscle.

As we stated earlier, there are 9 essential amino acids that your body can’t produce on their own. We need to source these from the foods we eat or else we become deficient. These 9 amino acids are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • valine

On the other hand, almost every source of animal protein is not only complete, but they breakdown easily allowing your body to begin to use them almost immediately.

HOW TO BUILD A HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN DIET

Because of how amino acids work, it’s important to include protein in as many meals as possible. Your amino acid pool is always refilling throughout the day, so the more you consistently supply your body with what it needs, the greater its ability to break down those amino acids you need to build muscle, tame your hunger, support fat loss, and build healthier hair, skin, and nails. However, this doesn’t mean you need to consume large portions at every meal. Typically, protein will break down within a two-hour period and begin to look for new sources. Therefore, smaller meals, more often throughout the day helps you keep cravings at bay, keeps you full and satiated and allows your body to continuously be in a repair and recovery mode.

Knowing how much protein you need each day depends on the size of your body. On average .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of your body is what is suggested for maintaining weight, or .8 to 1g per pound of body weight you would like to be as a realistic goal for weight loss. So, for a 140-pound female, the goal would be 112 to 140 grams of protein per day for maintaining that weight. If a 140-pound female wanted to lose 10 pounds, her suggested daily protein gram intake would be 104 to 130 grams. A simpler way to reach your daily protein intake is to eat 20-30 grams of protein per meal with in 5 to 6 meals per day. This amount of protein is proportionate to a 3 to 4 oz chicken breast, red meat, or fish, 4 to 5 eggs, 1 cup of Greek yogurt, or 3 to 4 cups of quinoa grain.

The exact amount of protein you need will depend on the quality of the protein you eat. If you consume mainly plant-based proteins, you may need to consume  larger portions of food in order to ingest all amino acid requirements.