As a vegan I am always hounded about how I am going to die from a lack of protein. Like every other vegan, I know that protein is definitely important but it isn’t exclusive to animal products like you may think. When I first looked into becoming vegan I was happy to find that it comes from many sources, not just meat. It is from there that I wanted to learn more about what role protein actually plays in our body and health so I asked Kylie Armstrong, a nutritionist at Alkaline Spa & Clinic, to run us through the 5 most important things we need to know about protein … whether you are an omnivore or vegan, or somewhere in between.
I definitely learnt some interesting facts and it has me thinking differently about protein.
1. Protein provides the building blocks for the human body …
Protein is essential for tissue repair and growth.
Protein is present in every part of our body; be it our skin, blood, internal organs, eyes, muscles, hair, and even nails. Proteins build neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and, after water, protein forms the largest portion of our body.
… And amino acids provide the building blocks for protein.
Protein is made up of small units called amino acids. There are hundreds of identified amino acids (and still more being discovered by science), nine of which are classified as Essential amino acids, meaning the body can not make these proteins and they must be sourced through diet.
A complete protein source contains all nine of these essential amino acids. Examples are red meat, eggs, chicken, fish, and supplements such as whey or vegetable protein.
2. Protein is not stored
Unlike fat, the body does not store protein. You can’t ‘make up’ protein intake; and you can’t load up one day and assume the benefits will last. Dietary protein must be consumed regularly for your body to function optimally.
It is recommended that 10-20% of our daily energy intake should come from protein. Exactly how much protein one should consume will differ according to the individual’s total body weight. However it can be estimated as 1g of protein per kg of body weight; and is an average of 20 grams per meal for females, and 30-35 grams per meal for males.
With these figures in mind, it’s easy to understand why protein supplementation in your diet could be at the very least beneficial, and (more likely) necessary.
3. Protein is only a secondary energy source
Protein is primarily used in the body to build and repair muscle and tissue, and secondarily as an energy source. Protein will only be used as a source of energy after other energy sources (carbohydrates and fats) are exhausted. Therefore a protein rich diet is only a successful means of losing weight when the diet is equally low in carbohydrates and fats.
Many protein supplements on the market are actually high in sugar (which, when unused, is stored by the body as fat) and carbohydrates. If you are interested in weight loss then always look for a protein powder that is low in sugar.
4. Protein lowers GI
Protein is digested at a slower rate than fat and carbohydrates, so including adequate protein will help to lower the glycemic index of a meal (the rate at which sugars are released into the body). Protein provides sustainable energy, without the sugar cravings that hit shortly after a high-GI meal.
5. Protein comes from more than just meat!
While meat contains indisputably high levels of protein, it is not necessarily the best option for everybody, and certainly not the only option.
Vegetables and grains contain amino acids which, when combined correctly, are a viable source of protein. When it comes to dietary supplementation, vegetable protein supplements, such as rice or pea protein, are easier to digest and absorb than other sources like whey protein (derived from dairy) or meat.
I recommend NuZest’s Clean Lean Protein as it is a complete protein source derived from European Golden Peas. It is free from allergens like gluten, soy and nuts; and is low in fat, carbohydrates and sugar.
About Kylie Armstrong
Kylie Armstrong is a Naturopath at Alkaline Spa & Clinic, an integrated day spa and wellness clinic offering the most innovative treatments specialising in detox and wellbeing.
Kylie has been involved both professionally and personally in Health and wellness for over 15 years. She gained her Bachelor degree in naturopathy at Southern Cross University in 2008. This university qualification has the reputation of having the most rigorous training and fortunately demands very high standards. Her personal experience of overcoming and working through serious health issues has given her the perspective and clarity to help others. Kylie is a truly holistic naturopath, she has a highly developed intuitive healing nature, that is grounded in solid scientific knowledge and training. She combines her skills and attributes to create specific treatments and health plans that are tailored and address the needs of individuals.
Kylie can help you with weight loss, detox, stress management, digestive issues, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and hormonal imbalance. She uses clinical testing tools like VLA to help both assess your current state of health, and motivate you along your path to wellness.
Do you watch your protein intake? Did you know vegetables could be a complete protein source? Let me know by commenting below!