Written By Sadie Wirthlin
There are three nutrients that the body needs in large amounts: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Together, these three macronutrients help keep the body energized and healthy. Some may wonder what proteins are exactly and what foods contain protein? Megan Ware, RDN LD, has all of the answers.
Proteins are made up of amino acid compounds, 22 of which the human body utilizes. The body can produce most of these compounds, but we can get 9 of them only by consuming food.
In order to get these 9 protein combinations, we need a balanced diet in two types of food groups: animal proteins and plant based proteins. Animal proteins include meat, dairy and eggs, and Ware states that these generally contain all of the essential amino acids that we need. Plant based proteins—like beans, grains, nuts and soy— are rich in some amino acids, but may be lacking in others. Ware emphasizes this is why a well-balanced and diverse diet is important.
Our bodies need protein for many reasons and at many different stages of growth. Infancy, pregnancy, exercise and injury are just a few examples of when a protein increase is recommended, especially since it is considered a building block and repairer for the body.
The average Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, but it can vary for endurance and strength training athletes. Ware suggests spreading out protein consumption between three to four meals, as the body can only absorb so much protein at a time before the excess becomes waste. She suggests meals with 15–20 grams each, instead of a one-time 60-gram meal.
Despite the benefits, however, there are a few precautions when it comes to eating protein. Consuming more than 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight can increase the risk of dehydration and fatigue. Consuming more than 200–400 grams per day can lead to nausea and diarrhea.
Knowing about the amount of protein in food can be very beneficial to one’s body and diet. Be sure to calculate the RDA amount with your body weight and figure out what your body needs!