| Nutrition | The Power of Protein: Fueling an active lifestyle
The Power of Protein: Fueling an active lifestyle
Whether you’re an avid gym-goer, an athlete, or simply a busy parent running around after tamariki (kids), healthy eating is important for everyone.
A key component to healthy eating is protein. Protein is a macronutrient (meaning a nutrient the body needs in larger quantities) which provides the building blocks of human life. Every cell in our body contains protein and we need to eat enough of it from food sources such as beef, lamb, eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds to help our bodies function.
Protein can support muscle growth, body maintenance and repair, strength, energy production, as well as assist with exercise recovery and it even helps us feel full so can help with weight management.
So, now that we know what this mighty macro can do… how much of it do we need?
The truth is protein requirements are different for everyone and can depend on a person’s age, gender, health background, as well as the level and frequency of physical activity they do. As you can imagine, an elite, world champion female rugby player is going to need more protein than the average Joe (or Jane!).
Protein requirements for active people
For those who do occasional or regular low to moderate intensity exercise (e.g. housework, gardening, yoga, brisk walking, light jogging etc.), the protein requirements are quite standard.
Provided you have no existing health conditions, following the Ministry of Health guidelines for your age, stage (e.g. pregnancy) and gender can give you all the protein you need. See the table above for the recommended serves of protein per day and serving examples.
A good rule-of-thumb is to have ¼ of your plate made up of a protein food with the remainder ¼ carbohydrates and ½ vegetables.
Protein requirements for athletes
For athletes, or those doing regular, vigorous exercise at least five times a week (e.g. HIIT, CrossFit, running, or competitive sports) the protein requirements are higher.
Think of your body like a car - the more you drive the more fuel you need. While every athlete will have different fuelling needs (and different sized tanks so to speak), the general protein requirement for athletes is 1.2-2g protein/kg of body weight, evenly spread out throughout the day with consideration of pre- and post-exercise meals.
Tailored advice from a Registered Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist is recommended to ensure you’re ticking all the protein requirements for optimal performance and recovery.
Food, food, glorious food…
There are many different animal-based and plant-based protein sources you can enjoy as part of a balanced diet - each one with its own unique taste, texture and nutritional merits.
As far as animal-sourced proteins go, lean red meat (such as beef and lamb) can be a whānau favourite and crowd pleaser - from a versatile mince dish to a juicy, roast lamb.
Lean red meat doesn’t just tick the box taste-wise, it’s a great protein choice:
- It’s a high quality protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids and is easily digested and absorbed
- There’s a lot in a little. Lean red meat is very protein-rich and is light in calories for the amount of protein it provides
It’s been dubbed natures power pack: weaved into its protein-base are other bioavailable nutrients, such as iron, zinc, B vitamins which are essential for health.
As with all good food, moderation is key. The Ministry of Health recommends adults (regardless of physical activity levels) can enjoy up to 500g of cooked lean red meat per week. This equates to about 3-4 meals per week.
However you move your body, whether it be in a high-intensity spin class, or racing around (and cleaning up) after small kids - meeting your protein requirements is an important part of feeling energised and re-charged. If you’re feeling inspired to whip up a protein-rich, hearty meal for your post-run recovery, or to fuel your tank for a family hikoi (walk) head to recipes.co.nz for tasty recipe ideas.
Note: Health problems may result from an inadequate diet. They may also have a medical basis unrelated to diet. The information in this blog is only general and is not to be taken as a substitute for medical advice or sports nutrition advice in relation to specific symptoms or health concerns.
Posted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand