Part 2: Nutrition Month, all about protein!

Guest Blogger: Dana Monsees

In our last article, we talked about why protein is important, why there is so much confusion about general protein guidelines for adults, and how much protein you really need. Today, we’ll be talking more about the practical aspects of getting enough protein.

First: who needs to be more intentional about protein? In general, people who *need* MORE protein includes athletes trying to build muscle, people recovering from surgery, sickness, or injury, kids and teenagers (because they are growing!), people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, women going through the stages of menopause, and everyone as they get into middle age and above. The more muscle and ligament/joint stability we have, the longer we can remain independent and (hopefully!) injury-free as we get older. 

Even if you don’t fit into any of the groups listed above, protein can also be really helpful for those trying to regulate their blood sugar or increase their insulin sensitivity, those who are trying to lose weight or have a tendency to gain weight easily, and many other health-related concerns. There are also people who would benefit from LESS protein, for example those with kidney or renal issues. This is why it’s so important to not just start eating massive amounts of protein with no medical or dietary supervision.

Let’s get into the practical aspects of protein consumption. Here’s a tip: spread your protein pretty equally throughout the day. Your body has an easier time digesting and utilizing the protein you need when it is distributed throughout your meals and snacks. Plus, if you’re looking for the benefits of using protein for blood sugar regulation and managing cravings, it will serve you better to have a dedicated protein source at each meal and snack. Protein also helps with satiety and slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, so you’re not hungry an hour after you just ate. 

Some other common questions I get from athletes and other clients are:

What kind of protein is best? 

Is there a difference in how the body utilizes, digests, and absorbs different kinds of protein? 

Does it matter at all?

Animal-sourced proteins like eggs, meat, fish, and dairy (plus whey and casein) are highly bioavailable; which means they are very easy for the body to break down, digest and absorb. Animal proteins are also called complete proteins because they contain all 20 of the essential amino acids – the ones the body can’t make on its own, meaning we have to consume them from food or supplements.

Plant proteins like those derived from beans, soy, lentils, nuts and seeds, and small amounts in rice and grains are less bioavailable. They are slightly harder for the body to digest and absorb, because the body has to do more work to access those proteins, and you have to consume a higher quantity of these foods to get the same amount of protein you would in animal sources. However, this doesn’t mean they are bad or insignificant protein sources to shake your head at. These can still be great sources of protein, and you can get all 20 amino acids from plant proteins by mixing and matching foods like rice and beans.


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