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Why is protein important?

Why do we need protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient, responsible for multiple functions in your body, including building tissue, cells and muscle, as well as making hormones and anti-bodies.

If you are weight training you may need more protein.

Studies also suggest that as we get older we may eating protein can help minimise muscle loss associated with aging.

How much protein should I eat?

For most people, a daily dose of around 0.8-1g of protein per 1kg of body weight is recommended.

After exercise, protein is particularly important since muscles need it to recover and grow.

A portion of protein (15-25g) is recommended within 30 minutes of exercise, when your muscles are particularly receptive to protein synthesis.

Can you eat too much protein?

The Department of Health advises adults to avoid consuming more than twice the recommended daily intake of protein (55g for the average man and 50g for the average woman).

One of the main issues with our Western diet is that our breakfasts and lunches are often low in protein but high in carbohydrates, with a protein-packed evening meal. It is better to spread your protein intake throughout the day.

High-protein foods

You can get protein from both plant and animal sources.

1. Eggs

One medium egg has around 6g of protein in an easily digestible form.

2. Milk

Dairy foods are packed with protein and contain bone-building calcium, too.

3. Yogurt

A combination of casein and whey protein, yogurt is a great protein-rich food.

4. Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood are good sources of protein and are typically low in fat. While slightly higher in fat than other varieties, salmon packs in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce joint stiffness and inflammation.

5. Chicken and turkey

Opt for lean protein from white meat poultry such as chicken and turkey.

6. Soya

Eating soya protein foods such as fortified tofu and soya-based drinks will help post-recovery, plus they can help to lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

7. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a practical protein choice if you’re on the move.

Around 50 pistachio nuts provides 6g of protein, plus sodium and potassium, the electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise.

8. Pork

Meat supplies branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are key in supporting muscle recovery.

Pork is great addition to a post-exercise meal or snack.

9. Beans and pulses

Beans and pulses are great, cheap protein sources. They're also a useful plant source of iron and and are rich in fibre.

10. Tofu and tempeh

Both tempeh and tofu are made from soy beans, however, tempeh requires the additional step of fermentation, providing it with an extra depth of flavour. Tempeh also offers a higher protein and fibre content, while tofu is slightly lower in fat and calories.

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