Protein is an essential nutrient in your diet. It helps you maintain lean muscles, regulate appetite and keep you full, so you can manage those distracting food cravings.
But just how much protein do you really need each day, especially if you are looking to lose weight?
Women need just 46g of protein a day, more if you are pregnant (60g a day) or over 70 (57g a day). For men it’s 64g a day, increasing to 81g a day when they are over 70.
However, for weight loss, when to eat protein is just as important as how much to eat. Our bodies can’t store protein and excess will generally be converted and stored as fat.
The best approach is to spread your protein intake over the day. To trim down, the CSIRO recommends aiming for at least 25g per meal and an extra 10g for snacks.
Balancing out your protein intake across the day can help you lose weight by keeping your appetite in check, boosting your metabolism and energy intake, and reducing food cravings.
Here are 3 top tips for nailing a healthy protein balance:
- Eat more protein at breakfast
Generally, we don’t get enough protein at breakfast so try to focus on adding extra protein to start the day.
Here are two quick and easy plant-powered protein breakfasts that easily tip over 25g of protein:
Top wholegrain cereal with yoghurt and a sprinkle of nuts. Alternatively, try baked beans and avocado on wholegrain toast, with a soy latte on the side.
- Swap to healthier protein
Adults generally get enough protein, but it’s not always from the right foods. In fact, we get around 40% of our protein from discretionary foods, or foods such as processed meats, fast foods, pastries, biscuits and cakes. It’s not that these foods are always high in protein, it just means people eat a lot of them.
Discretionary foods provide little nutritional value, so while they may contain some protein, they’ll often come with a lot of added sugars, salt and saturated fats.
For healthier protein options, stick to mostly wholefoods and plant food sources including legumes, peas, nuts, seeds, soy products such as tofu, soy milk and soy yoghurt, and wholegrains. Also, that way you’re getting your protein with a whole lot of vitamins, minerals and protective plant phytochemicals!
- Too much of a good thing
Too much of any food or food group, even protein, can provide more kilojoules than your body requires. In turn it can sabotage your weight loss or even cause weight gain. So don’t overdo it. Regular overconsumption may also put a strain on kidneys.
For more information and research references check out the full article on the Sanitarium website.