Protein is an extraordinary fuel. Protein is found everywhere in the body and plays many roles. The cells of the muscles, bones, blood vessels, skin, hair and fingernails are constantly being broken down and the protein that you consume from your diet is constantly working to repair and rebuild them. Protein's job of self-repair is really quite amazing and is just one reason that we do not restrict lean dietary protein in the Fit Livin' Diet and encourage as much lean protein as your hunger alarm permits.
Protein takes longer to digest and requires more caloric energy to be digested therefore consuming protein in meals aids in an increased sense of satiety and fullness. Researchers have found that diets high in protein burn more calories than high carbohydrate diets. The thermogenic effect or amount of calories burned in order to digest and process a meal is about 21% higher for a high protein meal compared to high carbohydrate meal. So, by consuming protein frequently throughout the day and controlling your carbohydrate intake, you should feel more satisfied and have greater control over what and how much you eat. In addition you'll be burning more calories while doing it!
Protein has 4 calories per gram and adult daily requirements vary by size and activity. 10-30% of total calorie intake should come from protein. Most active females need 65-90 grams/day while most active males require 95-120 g/day. Protein requirements vary from 0.8 to 1.7 g/kg/day.
Sedentary people need 0.8 g/kg/day (0.36 g/lb/day),
Endurance athletes need 1.2-1.4 g/kg/day (0.55-0.64 g/lb/day)
People who strength train need 1.6-1.7 g/kg/day (0.73-0.77 g/lb/day)
Research is showing that a good dose (20-30 grams) of protein in the morning lowers the hunger hormone for the day and leads to lower caloric intake over that day. We recommend 20-30 grams of protein at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. This is equivalent to a serving of meat, poultry or fish about the size of a deck of cards or 2-4 servings of non-meat sources (see vegetarian section of blog)
Most people recognize or think of protein as meat but it can also be found in milk and milk products, soy based products, eggs, beans, and lentils.
Dairy proteins are also great sources of calcium and vitamin D. Adequate calcium intake is important for optimal bone health. Calcium also plays an essential role in nerve transmission, constriction and dilation of blood vessels and muscle contraction. Milk and milk products contribute significantly to meeting calcium needs.
If you are lactose intolerant or avoid milk and milk products for any reason then it is important to get your calcium from other food sources, including fortified foods.
Vitamin D assists in calcium absorption and adequate intake reduces the risk of bone fractures. Vitamin D is unique in that sunlight on the skin enables the body to make Vitamin D. In the summer, it is easy to get enough UV-B rays to produce adequate Vitamin D. In fact, in most cases 10-30 minutes in the sun is enough. However, in the winter months it is much more difficult. So, we have to rely more heavily on dietary sources or supplementation of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been a hot topic recently and has been linked to being protective against heart disease and some cancers.
Choose 2-4 servings from the list below on a daily basis to meet Calcium & Vitamin D needs:
Good sources of calcium and their calcium content:
Skim milk (1 cup) 300 mg
Low-fat yogurt (1 cup) (100-200 mg)
Low-fat Greek Yogurt (1 cup) (100-200 mg)
Low-fat Cottage Cheese (1/2 cup) (100-200 mg)
Low-fat Soy milk (1 cup) (200-300 mg)
Low-fat Lactaid milk (1 cup) (200-300 mg)
Calcium fortified fruit juice (1 cup) 300-400 mg
Good sources of Vitamin D and their Vitamin D content:
Calcium & Vit D fortified fruit juice (6 ounces) 300-400 mg, 100 IU
Skim milk (1 cup) 100 IU
Tuna canned in oil (3.5 oz) 240 IU
Salmon (3.5 oz) 360 IU
What if I'm Vegetarian?
Vegetarianism means different things to different people. Vegetarian practices could mean that you exclude all animal products or that you exclude all animal products except allow dairy, chicken or fish..
People choose to reduce or eliminate animal products for a variety of reasons as well. No matter what the reason, careful planning is key. It's important to find good non-meat substitutes for protein, iron, zinc, calcium, B2 and B12. If you avoid all animal products, we would recommend choosing 6-8 non-meat protein sources divided among your meals and snacks each day to reduce the risk for being low in the nutrients listed above.
Non-meat sources of protein: