The Importance of a High Protein Diet
Protein is one of the building blocks of life and it’s consumption is essential for stimulating the growth of cells and helping to repair body tissue. There are 20 different compounds we call amino acids. Different combinations of these make up all proteins. Depending on which amino acids link together, protein molecules can form enzymes, hormones, muscles, organs and many other tissues in the body.
The 20 compounds break down into two types of amino acids:
- “non-essential” amino acids which can be made by the body.
- “essential” amino acids which cannot be made by the body and must be absorbed from the food we eat. There are nine of these “essential” amino acids.
Any type of exercise or training you do will increase your bodys need for a high protein diet. A lack of quality protein will result in your body losing muscle tissue and tone, a reduction in the function of your immune system, a slower recovery rate and a lack of energy. If you are looking to build muscle and increase strength or even reduce body fat, whilst keeping definition and tone, a high protein diet from quality sources is of utmust importance. Try this book for 150 delicious high-protein meal ideas.
Animal and Plant Proteins
Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids. These can be known as “complete proteins”.
Oily fish, like salmon, sardines, trout or tuna, are excellent sources of protein. They also have the added advantage of being high in certain types of fatty acids that provide protection against heart attacks and strokes. Oily fish can contain up to eight times as much Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids as lean fish like cod, haddock or skate.
Chicken breasts and beef steaks are also great sources of animal protein and are very verstile when it comes to using them in recipes.
Animal protein is found in:
- Dairy products
Plant proteins contain many amino acids, but no single source contains all of the essential amino acids you need. You need to consume as many different plant proteins as possible if you want to make up the complete range of amino acids needed by your body when you’re trying to maintain a high protein diet.
Plant protein is found in:
- Legumes (peas, green beans)
- Soya products
- Vegetable protein foods such as Quorn or veggie mince
How much protein do you need?
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. Current advice says protein only has to make up around 10 to 15 per cent of your daily diet to meet your body’s needs, which is around 55g for men and 45g for women. However, exercising can more than double your need for it, so if you’re exercising on a regular basis, you’ll need to consume at least 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you’re looking to build muscle as fast as possible, you could be looking at eating around 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Unfortunately, if you don’t get enough protein in your diet, your body will start to use your muscles, its own sources of protein, for energy! It starts eating away at your muscles – slowing your metabolic rate, reducing your strength AND bringing muscle growth to a grinding halt.
A high protein diet plays an important role in any fat loss programme. To lose weight you must restrict the number of calories you consume. As mentioned earlier however, when you cut down on what you eat, the body starts using muscle protein as energy – in other words, you are literally ‘eating’ yourself. You must get enough protein from your diet to cover these losses. If you fail to get enough protein on a daily basis, you’ll quickly lose strength and slow down your metabolic rate!
If you’ve been training with weights without seeing much in the way of results, then you can see it’s important to make sure you’re eating a high protein diet!
High Protein Food
If you’re looking to consume a high protein diet, we have included this list of high protein foods to use as a rough guide. Please use this to help you understand how much protein is in each food item.
- Beefburger, 4 oz – 28 grams protein
- Steak, 6 oz – 42 grams
- Most cuts of beef – 7 grams of protein per ounce
- Chicken breast, 3.5 oz – 30 grams protein
- Chicken thigh (average size) – 10 grams
- Drumstick – 11 grams
- Wing – 6 grams
- Chicken meat, cooked, 4 oz – 35 grams
- Most fish fillets or fish steaks are about 22 grams of protein for 3 ½ oz (100 grams) of cooked fish, or 6 grams per ounce
- Tuna, 6 oz can – 40 grams of protein
- Pork chop, average – 22 grams protein
- Pork loin or tenderloin, 4 oz – 29 grams
- Ham, 3 oz serving – 19 grams
- Ground pork, 1 oz raw – 5 grams; 3 oz cooked – 22 grams
- Bacon, 1 rasher – 3 grams
- Canadian-style bacon (back bacon), 1 rasher – 5–6 grams
Eggs and Dairy
- Egg, large – 6 grams protein
- Milk, 1 cup – 8 grams
- Cottage cheese, ½ cup – 15 grams
- Yogurt, 1 cup – usually 8-12 grams, check label
- Soft cheeses (Mozzarella, Brie, Camembert), per oz – 6 grams
- Medium cheeses (Cheddar, Swiss), per oz – 7-8 grams
- Hard cheeses (Parmesan), per oz – 10 grams
- Tofu, ½ cup – 20 grams protein
- Tofu, 1 oz – 2.3 grams
- Soy milk, 1 cup – 6-10 grams
- Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc) about 7-10 grams protein per half cup of cooked beans
- Soy beans, ½ cup cooked – 14 grams
- Split peas, ½ cup cooked – 8 grams
Nuts and Seeds
- Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons – 8 grams protein
- Almonds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
- Peanuts, ¼ cup – 9 grams
- Cashews, ¼ cup – 5 grams
- Pecans, ¼ cup – 2.5 grams
- Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup – 6 grams
- Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup – 19 grams
- Flax seeds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
We hope this page has been helpful in developing your understanding of the importance of a high protein diet.
For more information, try reading The High Protein Cookbook, which details over 150 meal ideas that all contain at least 30 grams of protein!
Get more information on healthy weight loss programs by calling The Denver Center for Bariatric Surgery.