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How Much Protein Should We Be Having Every Day?

By Francesca Cappozzo

After water, do you know what the main constituent of our body is?

Protein!

Protein has such important roles in the body, ranging from muscle growth and repair to creating hormones and enzymes that regulate the metabolism, support the immune system and much else. If, while reading that, you felt as though you need more protein than you are eating at the moment, then you are probably right.

An increasing number of studies suggests that increasing the amount of protein that we eat every day is the correct approach to improving our health. If you are sedentary (i.e. your job has you sitting for hours on end each day), then 0.8g per kg of body weight is generally enough. But most of us now participate in sports and physical activities, which is great! This means that to improve training adaptations, we need more.

If you run, cycle, swim or take part in endurance types of sports, then you should aim to have 1.2-1.4g per kilograms of body weight. For example, if you are a 60kg runner, that means circa 84g of protein per day. Strength- and power-based workouts such as bodybuilding, Muai Thai and Crossfit require even more protein, because the stress they place on muscles is higher and to heighten your power and get those ‘gainz’, you will need about 1.6-2g per kilograms of body weight per day. For mixed exercises, such as Pilates and yoga, I would stay on the upper end of 1.4 g.kg.bw per day. Also, if you are ‘older and wiser’, you will already be eating more protein to prevent sarcopenia, a very common phenomenon that occurs with ageing and increases the breakdown of protein, making you frailer. In these cases, at least 1.2g.kg.bw is key! And no; so far, there is no substantial evidence that too much protein can cause kidney problems.

Of course, I wouldn’t suggest you eat 90g of proteins in one sitting. Bear in mind that timing and quality are essential to getting all the benefits from proteins. Our bodies can absorb and use only about 20-25g every 2-3 hours, so spread these out throughout your meals and snacks. 20g of protein can be found in:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 600ml skimmed milk
  • 400g yoghurt
  • 70-100g meat, fish or chicken
  • 200g cottage cheese
  • 120g nuts – any unsalted, almonds contain the most
  • 70g crunchy peanut/almond butter
  • 1 x 240g (drained weight) canned chickpeas/kidney beans/lentils
  • 400g canned baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 60g halloumi/feta/mozzarella
  • 25-30g protein powder

Quality is important too. If you are thinking about increasing lean mass, then eating more absorbable protein with high leucine content (one of the famous BCAA, branch-chained amino acids) highly activates MTORC1, a gene regulator that triggers muscle growth. The highest leucine content can be found in whey (a milk protein), lean meat and eggs; and lower levels can be found in plant and nut proteins.

Protein = muscle? Yes; but it also equals brain function and support for the rest of your body, so keep ’em on your plate!

If you would like to know more about the latest studies on protein, many journals are available on the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) website. Otherwise, come and have a chat with me at Maître of Thyme!

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Chew Your Way Out of Lazy Digestion

By Maija Kivelä

We all know that chewing our food properly aids digestion and helps to avoid bloating and gastric discomfort. But how often do we actually focus on the process of chewing while munching on the go? It’s almost counterintuitive, isn’t it. It definitely isn’t the first impulse when we are in the middle of our busy day, wolfing down a quick lunch or pick-me-up.

Are you counting your bites?

Don’t overthink it, but bring awareness to meal times.

Digestion begins with chewing. When you chew your food properly, your mouth and teeth break down larger pieces of food into ever-smaller particles. The abundance of saliva released contains digestive enzymes, which, while you chew your food, your body is also releasing in your stomach to help break everything down. Digestive enzymes and stomach acid only work on the surface of the pieces of food. Think: if you swallow a big piece of food, only its outermost surface will be available for your digestive enzymes and stomach acid to break down. Chewing your food for longer means a larger amount of its nutrients will be available for enzymes, absorption and ultimately, digestion.

Digestion is one of the body’s most energy-consuming processes, so it’s important to help it along from the moment you bring the nutrients in to your mouth. Processed foods are important to avoid (especially children)as the require much less chewing. The more you chew the better you are able to digest and the more you will absorb important nutrients. Chewing promotes growth and repair in the body.

How many times should you chew?

Well, you should know that there isn’t an exact number for all foods. A general rule of thumb for soft foods is to chew 5-10 times. For meat, vegetables and some fruits, it goes up to 30 times. 30 times sounds like a very long time! Eating steak can take a while; but it’s important to remember that eating good, healthy food is a pleasure — not a race. Think about nourishing your mind and body every time you grab something to eat, not just satisfying the hunger or emotions.

Save the drinks for later.

Drinking during meals slows down digestion considerably; but 30 minutes before or after eating doesn’t interrupt the system. It’s lovely to have a coffee for dessert and a small cup is absolutely fine. But too much caffeine straight after a meal can really speed up digestion, meaning that your body won’t be able to extract all the nutrients from the food. Coffee is also highly acidic, so having some straight after a meal can give you heart burn.

Always make time to sit down to eat.

Being on the go and making due with easy and readily available snacks is familiar to us all. Sure, it’s great to eat small frequent meals but it’s easy to forget those calories during proper meal times. Try to keep on-the-go snacking to a minimum, and make time for yourself to be able to sit down and enjoy your lunch slowly without any rush. Eating mindfully will promote effective digestion and prevent overeating.

Make your meal times special and enjoy nourishing your body!

—Namaste.