The protein market is booming, and the rise of protein packed products seems unstoppable, with not just regular exercisers buying into the market. But while the benefits of a protein rich diet may be well documented, there is still some confusion around the vital nutrient, and how it can best be used to achieve your health, fitness and weight goals. To dispel the myths, we spoke to nutritionist, Liam Mahoney, from Grenade, the leading sports performance and nutrition brand.
DO consume your protein between meals
'People tend to eat high amount of protein towards the end of the day with their evening meal, however, you should be evenly consuming your protein intake throughout the day. The recommended daily allowance of protein is 45g for women and 55g for men, ideally this should be split between breakfast, lunch, dinner and mid meal snacks.
'Protein consumption helps regulate your hunger hormones and keeps you fuller for longer, so by eating protein regularly throughout the day (starting with breakfast), it can help with unnecessary snacking, contributing to a successful weight management regime. Following exercise, it is important that you consume between 20-30g of quality proteins, within 30 minutes after completing your session. This will give your body the right nutrients to kick start the repair process, helping reduce exercise related soreness and enabling you to train more frequently.'
DON'T only eat protein
'Too much of a good thing can seem like a cliché, but all things must be consumed in balance. Protein is one of three macronutrients within the daily diet, all vitality important for health and wellbeing. This means that people who exclusively eat protein may be at risk of developing either acute or chronic health symptoms if they do not eat other food groups as part of their diet. For example, a lack of carbohydrates can lead to fatigue, light-headedness and low blood sugar.'
DO consume the right amount of protein
'The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. However, the amount of protein your body needs each day is dependent on other factors including age, activity levels and muscle mass. As a starting point, calculate how much protein you should be eating daily, and also look at your carbohydrate and fat intake too to ensure you're eating a balanced diet, and tailoring your meals and snacks to help you achieve your goals.'
DON'T assume that all proteins are equal
'Where many people go wrong with protein is that they assume all sources are the same, when in actual fact there are so many different types, varying drastically in their quality and content of amino acids. For example, the most commonly known sources of protein are found in meat and fish.
'Meat offers a brilliant quality source of protein because it provides all nine essential amino acids, however many meats are also high in saturated fat, so it is a case of choosing the leanest options. Fish on the other hand is high in protein and low in saturated fat but especially high is omega oils. You can also get good quality sources of protein from a plant based diet; lentils, quinoa and hemp seeds are all high in protein and suitable for those who do not eat meat, or fish.'
DO invest in good quality protein snacks
'Well-established brands have recognised the popularity of protein products, and have reacted to this consumer demand by including more protein in their product portfolios. Consumers are also becoming well-informed with their meal and snack choices, so do not be fooled by protein taglines. Just because your favourite chocolate brands now sell 'protein' versions of their leading confectionary lines, it does not mean you have found a healthier alternative. When choosing a high protein snack, make sure you look at the packaging and ingredient lists.
For a confectionary style bar I recommend the Carb Killa range from Grenade, each bar contains approximately 23 grams of high quality protein and is loaded with fibre as well as being also low in sugar and calories, and containing low impact carbs to ensure your blood sugar levels stay balanced. For a great tasting vegan snack, get creative and bake some delicious chia and coconut muffins. When snack time rolls around, grab one of these muffins for a healthy and satisfying snack. Gluten and dairy free, they pack protein from either plant and nut-based protein powder and the chia seeds.'
DON'T misunderstand protein supplements
'Protein supplements can provide a quick and easy way to get those amino acids in without any hassle. What is important, is that you do not misunderstand protein supplements – as with protein foods, not all protein shakes are created equal. The most popular protein supplement on the market today is whey protein powder or ready to drink solutions. This has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and contribute to weight management.
For vegan alternatives look for plant and nut-based protein powders (as above). You have to ensure that you understand the protein supplements you are consuming and know exactly what you are putting in to your body.'