An essential macronutrient and the foundation to our body’s health, protein is at the centerpiece of our diets. It’s part of any balanced meal, we’re told it’s good for us, and we need it to recover and replenish our bodies after exercise. But why? Today, we’re going to demystify protein for you and show you how much of it you need, what it does, and why it’s so important!
First of all, why do we need protein? Well, for starters, protein plays an important role in how the body maintains itself. This is because the body uses protein to build important materials such as enzymes and hormones, as well as structural components like blood, muscle, and bone, in addition to other tissues. Protein is also classified as a “macronutrient,” meaning that we need large quantities of it to survive. Alongside protein, the other macronutrients needed to maintain life are carbohydrates and fats - this is in opposition to “micronutrients,” or the vitamins and minerals our body requires, named so because we don’t need as much of them as we do protein, carbs, and fats; though they are just as essential.
This begs he question, however; what exactly is protein? In basic terms, proteins are chains of amino acids linked together in sequence. One of the main reasons that we eat protein is that while we can produce some of our own amino acids, our body also needs amino acids that we can’t manufacture on our own. It’s also worth noting that not all protein is the same, and some sources are “complete” protein sources while others are not. What determines if a protein is complete is whether or not it possesses an amino acid profile of all nine “essential” amino acids, all of which need to be acquired by the body through diet or supplementation. Animal protein such as chicken, beef, and pork make excellent choices for complete protein sources, but there are complete plant sources as well, like quinoa, hemp, and chia seed proteins. Having a blend of both plant-based and animal-based proteins in your diet is ideal for digestive health and absorption - after all, plant-based protein is typically more fibrous and better for your gut, while animal protein is better for your hormonal health. Additionally, leaning too much on animal protein can lead to an oversaturation of fats in your diet, while relying too much on plant protein can lead to a lack of nutrients. So it’s important to stay balanced!
So how much do we need, and why? According to Healthline, the average adult needs about 40 to 60 grams of protein a day if sedentary. Here at Caveman Foods, however, we believe in living a balanced, active lifestyle - so with that in mind, it’s recommended that, depending on your activity level and lifestyle, you should probably be ingesting about 0.7 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (not overall weight) for optimal health and fitness. Ingesting protein at this level is great for a few reasons - for one, it’ll keep your hunger levels down between meals while feeding your body’s tissues, making getting in shape a breeze. Plus, as mentioned previously, it’ll make sure your body has everything it needs to recover and repair itself after intense exercise. There are rumours that eating a high protein diet can cause issues such as osteoporosis or kidney damage, which are likely not true - given that some studies indicate that high protein intake can reduce the impact of osteoporosis, while protein-rich diets have yet to be causally linked to kidney damage.
Protein is an extremely important nutrient - not just in the Paleo diet, but in maintaining health as well! In short, just remember these key takeaways: Not all protein is created equal, eat at least 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, and balance out your protein sources! If you can remember to do these, you’ll be on your way to being a protein master in no time! And if you’re looking for a tasty protein-rich snack, why not try our collagen bar? With 11 grams of egg and collagen protein, it’s a great way to get some of the protein you need without having to eat a cardboard-flavored protein bar.