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Whether or not you regularly show your face at the gym, we all know the link between protein and muscle building. Check out any store (online or offline) that offers supplements for athletes and you can choose from a huge range of protein products, such as protein shakes and meal bars. Even people who want to lose weight can’t ignore protein, given the immense popularity of countless protein-rich diets. But proteins also have countless advantages for non-sportsmen. What exactly is protein or protein and why is it good for us? And what food contains protein?
What are proteins?
Proteins are important nutrients that our body needs to function properly. They are in fact building blocks; the body of an adult person consists of no less than twelve kilos of protein. Proteins in turn consist of amino acids. These amino acids ensure that the cells in our body recover and strengthen themselves. You can think of proteins and amino acids as a chain of beads, in which the proteins are the cord and the amino acids are the beads. During digestion the bead chain falls apart, so to speak, so that loose amino acids remain. These are the building blocks for our cells in, for example, muscles, skin, hair and nails. There are 22 different amino acids, of which our body can make 13 by itself. The rest we have to get from our daily diet. These are essential amino acids and can be found in almost all foods, both animal and vegetable.
What do we need protein for?
Proteins are indispensable for our body and have different functions. They play an important role in the repair and construction of body cells and in the transport of substances in the blood and in the cells. Proteins are also important for many processes in our body such as digestion and the functioning of our immune system.
To grow muscles you need proteins. Bodybuilders know this like no other. Many bodybuilders start the day by eating about six to eight eggs, boiled or uncooked or as an omelette, and at lunch and dinner they usually work away quite a bit of chicken fillet. As a non-athlete you don’t have to eat so much protein of course, but the fact remains that proteins are essential for muscle building. By the way, this only applies when the muscles are put to work. So by leaning back in your lazy chair and drinking protein shakes, your muscle mass will not increase.
Who wants to lose weight also benefits from eating protein. Proteins take a long time to digest and you will feel satiated for a longer time. You get less appetite, so one day you also eat less. It is not the case that the kilos fly off when you eat protein. The total calories you consume are also important.
How much protein do you need?
As an adult, you need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. So someone who weighs 70 kilos should make sure he or she gets 56 grams of protein from the daily diet. Some people need a little more than average, for example vegetarians, children, people with certain disorders, pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding. By the way, athletes need more protein than average. If you do a lot of strength training you need half as much protein as an average person. Protein is extremely important for muscle recovery.
What food contains protein?
Protein can be found in almost all foodstuffs, both vegetable and animal products. There are products that contain a little more protein than others. For example, products such as dairy products, chicken breast, salmon, cheese, legumes, eggs, soy, bread and nuts are rich in protein. As a non-athlete you already have your daily need for protein when one day you eat a piece of chicken breast, an egg, a handful of nuts and a bowl of yoghurt and drink a glass of buttermilk. If you do a lot of sports or as a vegetarian you need extra protein. As a vegetarian you can’t get these from meat or fish and for athletes it’s not really advisable to eat a lot of meat or fish in one day.
Fortunately, there are also vegetable products that contain a lot of protein. Tofu is a good example of this. A source of protein that is still relatively unknown in the Netherlands, however, is lupine. Lupine is also called the ‘new gold’ or ‘power pods’ by some. And that is not for nothing. What few people know is that lupine contains an enormous amount of protein, is rich in calcium, magnesium and iron, full of dietary fibre and low in fat. Lupine beans also contain all the essential amino acids we need. A sustainable and good alternative to soy. Sustainable because lupin is a strong plant that can grow in any climate, without artificial fertiliser or pesticides. Lupin contains even 10% more protein than soy. Moreover, an Australian study shows that lupin lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and improves intestinal function. So it’s quite a powerhouse. You can read more about the benefits of lupine in this article.
Protein is indispensable for a healthy body. There’s no question about that. A shortage of protein can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and a lower resistance. So make sure you get enough protein every day. And there are enough foods on the market that contain protein, so there is plenty of choice!