The building blocks of life- protein is crucially important for our body’s functioning. This super macronutrient builds and repairs tissues, helps in making important enzymes, hormones and muscles while keeping your bones, blood, hair and nails healthy. Adequate protein consumption boosts metabolism, aids weight loss and decreases the risk of some common lifestyle diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Protein is also vital for maintaining fluid balance in the body and providing you strength and energy. But how much protein is enough to keep us going in an optimal way?
What is protein: Apart from carbohydrates and fats, protein is the third essential macro nutrient needed to sustain life. Protein is made of amino acids that are organic compounds comprising hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. The amino acids are connected together like beads on a string. There are 20 different forms of amino acids that function inside a human body. Protein, essential for the growth, functioning and maintenance of our cells and tissues, makes up about 17 per cent of our total body weight. Since protein continuously gets used and recycled, we have to replenish its reserves through a healthy diet.
Why is it useful: Protein helps you build the all-important muscle mass, that in turn boosts your metabolism which means an elevated calorie burn rate. Protein rich food such as pulses, beans, curd, nuts, nut butter, eggs, whole grains, soya, meat etc. provide the much needed strength to your body and also keeps you full for a long time. Thus ensuring that you do not binge unnecessarily on the wrong foods. Protein breaks down into amino acids which helps build, maintain and recover muscles, bones, skin, enzymes and hormones, as well as transport oxygen in the blood. In the absence of fresh protein synthesis, our body’s immune system also gets a beating. Some of the amino acids are essential because your body doesn’t make them and you have to rely on food sources to avail them.
How much do we need: In general, adult sedentary women should consume 46 g and adult sedentary men should consume 56 g of protein daily. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 0.8 to 1 gm protein per kg body weight per day is sufficient to meet the basic nutritional requirements. A good way to ensure that is by filling 1/4th of your plate with protein. Alternatively, about 10 to 35 per cent of daily calories for a person should come from protein, as per the Institute of Medicine. Insufficient protein consumption may lead to progressive loss of muscle mass, resulting in loss of strength and eventual immobility. The amino acids we get from protein also make neurotransmitters that carry brain signals and not having enough protein can lower our mental performance and memory. There seem to be no adverse effects of having a reasonably high protein diet, obtained through healthy sources. While there have been reports of kidney damage and osteoporosis due to excess protein consumption, there has been no conclusive study to prove the same.
No protein powder/special foods: It’s become common to consume protein powder and other special foods to build muscle, increase bone strength and boost overall health. Since many people do not consume a balanced diet, they find consuming such supplements to be an easy alternative. Also, many weight loss advisors/companies promote such supplements citing useful muscle building and weight loss benefits etc. However, such supplements can be high in sugar and calories, risking damage to your health. Besides, most of them are packaged and processed, containing dried and sometimes artificial ingredients, which are definitely not good for you.
At OneFitplus, we believe that as long as you’re having a healthy and wholesome diet, it is not necessary to consume any kind of supplements. We feel that the required nutritional intake should be obtained from natural food sources and by following a balanced diet. Supplements cannot replace immune-boosting substances like antioxidants and phytonutrients that are found in natural foods and can help protect against conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The amount of protein you need can vastly depend on your age, gender, medical history, activity level but in general, a daily consumption of protein whether through animal or plant source is essential to support optimal protein synthesis. Since proteins are the building blocks for the growth and development of children and a source of strength and vitality in adults, we should take conscious efforts to select our food sources smartly and make healthy eating a regular habit.