Am I Getting Enough Protein?Lisa Kilgour, Nutritionist
September 11, 2017
Am I getting enough protein? How do I even know if I’m getting enough?
Protein, protein, protein…it’s a very common question in my world. This very fashionable macronutrient is top of mind and it seems we’re all wondering, do I need more?
Protein is really important for many parts of the body. It’s used to make our muscle tissue, bones, and it’s even a part of our DNA!
How do you know if you’re getting enough protein? First, a bit of math. A good place to start is by making sure you’re getting at least 0.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. This means a 150 lbs person needs about 75 grams of protein per day.
But, it’s not always that simple.
Your activity level affects how much protein you need, so if you’re an athlete (week-end warrior or everyday athlete) you’ll definitely need more. Closer to 0.75 – 1 gram per pound.
And, how you digest protein really matters. You may take in lots and lots of protein, but you may be feeling signs and symptoms of a protein deficiency.
Protein deficiency symptoms:
- Breaking nails
- Limp hair
- Sluggish metabolism
- Trouble gaining muscle (or you’re losing muscle)
- Trouble fighting off colds and flu
…and the oddest symptom, but a common one – bread cravings. Sometimes your body mixes up what food it wants, and mistakes bread for the protein it really needs. This happens to me often – when I start dreaming of toast, I up my protein intake and I feel better.
How to get enough protein–
Do you have some protein deficiency symptoms? Or, do you just want to make sure you’re getting enough? That’s easy enough with a simple few tips:
I’m going to focus on vegan and vegetarian forms of protein, only because they tend to be the hardest to balance. And, we all can use some more plant-based foods in our diets.
- Combine your protein properly on vegan days- Animal protein (including dairy and eggs), protein powders, and some plant-based protein (like soy or quinoa) are complete proteins. This means that they contain all 9 essential amino acids our body needs every day. One serving of a complete protein means your body can use all of the other proteins you consume throughout that day. But, if you’re having a vegan day without any complete protein, then you have to be a little more careful. You have to complete it yourself, and luckily it’s pretty easy. You just need to combine legumes (beans) with grains or nuts/seeds. So this could be rice and beans (a traditional favorite in many countries), or as simple as a peanut butter sandwich (peanuts aren’t nuts, they’re actually legumes).
- Amp up your meal with some nut butter–You’d be surprised how many places you can add some nut butter. Almond or peanut butter in a smoothie, raw cashew butter on a sandwich (along with some hummus is one of my favorites), or stuff some nut butter inside a date for a quick snack. Don’t over-think it, just slather some on.
- Sprinkle on some seeds–Hemp, chia, or sesame seeds can easily add some extra protein to your salad, oatmeal, or sandwich.
- Switch it out for some quinoa –Quinoa is a beautiful whole grain, that’s higher than most in protein. Switch out your oatmeal in the morning for quinoa and blueberries. Or switch out your rice with quinoa for dinner.
- Add a whole food protein powder –When you need an extra boost, a whole food protein powder can be essential. My struggle with many protein powders is that they can be hard to digest and they can sometimes be very refined food. We know that refined carbohydrates, like white flour and white sugar, are hard on our body…but what about refined protein? Protein needs some helpers for proper digestion, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Just like you’d find in any protein-rich food.
I think we need to look at our protein powders a little differently, especially if your protein powder is causing nausea or gas. So, instead of just looking at price and taste, start with quality and your body will thank you.
Botanica’s Perfect Protein is a whole food protein, made with coconut, quinoa, and sprouted brown rice…and includes all of those important digestion helpers. Add it to your favorite smoothie, yogurt, or have on its own for an extra protein punch.