What ARE protein powders and do you need to be adding them to your diet?
Protein powders have become so commonplace that it’s natural to feel your diet is lacking without it. Is that true? Are our diets so naturally low in protein that if we don’t pay uber attention to how many grams per day we are getting, we will suffer the consequences of protein deficiency (including muscle wasting and diminished immunity)?
Protein has a variety of physiological functions. The most commonly known function of protein is its ability to build and repair lean body mass (muscle). But protein has other important functions as well. It’s necessary for making antibodies that help with fighting infection, illness and disease. Hormones (messenger proteins that help transmit signals and coordinate functioning between different cells, tissues and organs) and enzymes (proteins that increase the rate of chemical reactions in the body) also come from protein.
Protein-rich foods are fish, meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Non-animal protein sources include soy products, legumes, lentils, nuts, nut butters seeds, meat substitutes, and grains.
Often made from whey protein (whey is the main protein found in milk), protein powder can be added to smoothies or shakes as a supplement to increase the protein content.
How much protein do we need?
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams protein per kilogram of body weight. So a 160-pound (72.3 kg) person needs 58-59 grams protein per day to fulfill their protein requirement. Here is an example day that provides more than adequate protein for this 160-pound person:
Breakfast: english muffin (4 grams protein) with 2 eggs (13 grams protein), an orange and a 12 ounce latte (8 grams protein)
Snack: greek yogurt (11 grams protein) and fruit
Lunch: turkey sandwich (21 grams protein) with sides (protein varies)
Snack: pretzels dipped in peanut butter (10 grams protein
Dinner: black bean tacos (7 grams protein in ½ cup black beans, 8 grams in ⅓ cup shredded cheese, 5 grams in tortilla)
Total = 87+ grams protein
Pregnant women and athletes need more protein than others.
Pregnancy and lactation require more protein in order to support the baby’s growth. Pregnant and lactating women need at least 71 grams per day (the example day above provides over 100 % of that same person’s needs if they were pregnant).
How much more protein do athletes need?