Looking for foods that pack a punch with protein? Check out this list that have all the stuff a fighter needs in the canteen!
Why protein is important
- Building and Repairing Tissues
Protein is a fundamental component of cells, tissues, and organs in the human body. It plays a crucial role in building, maintaining, and repairing tissues, including muscles, bones, skin, and organs.
- Enzyme Function
Many enzymes are proteins that facilitate various chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes are essential for processes such as digestion, metabolism, and energy production.
- Hormone Production
Some hormones, such as insulin, growth hormone, and glucagon, are proteins. These hormones regulate numerous physiological processes, including metabolism, growth, and development.
- Transport and Storage
Certain proteins, such as hemoglobin, transport oxygen in the blood. Other proteins act as carriers to transport nutrients and molecules across cell membranes. Additionally, proteins can store certain molecules, such as iron, in the body.
- Immune Function
Antibodies are specialized proteins produced by the immune system to recognize and neutralize foreign substances like viruses and bacteria. They play a crucial role in defending the body against infections and diseases.
- Source of Energy
While carbohydrates and fats are the primary sources of energy, proteins can also be used for energy when needed. However, the body typically relies on proteins as an energy source only when carbohydrates and fats are insufficient.
- Satiation and Weight Management
Protein-rich foods tend to be more satiating, meaning they make you feel fuller for longer. This can help in managing weight by reducing cravings and overeating.
It’s important to consume adequate amounts of protein in your diet to support these essential functions. The recommended protein intake varies, depending on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and overall health. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian can provide personalized recommendations for protein intake.
- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who exercise regularly consume more protein than the recommended daily intake to increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity. They recommend a range of 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.
- However, a 2017 study published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that this figure could be higher. The study, which examined the protein needs of young male bodybuilders, found that the estimated average requirement of protein was 1.7g per kilogram of body weight, and the upper limit was 2.2g per kilo of body weight.
- Depending on the body and activity level we can absorb between 20 – 30g of protein at one sitting while the rest, if any, may get converted into energy, fat or goes right out putting extra pressure on the renal system.
- Depending on the type of food we eat, the body needs 2 – 3 hours between two meals to be able to metabolize protein properly and not to put it to other use. Hence the reason body builders or anyone building muscles, optimally eats 5 – 6 times a day.
This basically means that if we set a requirement of 60g protein each day, and eat three meals a day, each meal must have 20g of protein separated by at least 2 – 3 hours. But what food sources are high in protein?
Food high in protein
It’s important to note that although some food sources contain really high amount of protein if the corresponding calories are too high for our energy expenditure they result in weight gain, hence not considered optimal. If we move a lot though and our body requires a lot of energy then high calories high protein food is just what we need.
Also note that most values are for raw ingredients that once prepared could be vastly different from the raw values. For example lentils once soaked and cooked absorbs at least as much water as its original weight reducing its nutrition values by half.
Depending on our goal, our nutrition requirements can differ vastly. There is five ways to read the same table with a bit of applied Math and Excel magic here.
- Protein rich food sources ordered by the most amount of protein per weight.
- If we want to lose weight though, and working on to achieve calorie deficit the less calories we eat, the better it is. This table could be used best.
- As it can be seen, low calorie items not just low in calories but protein too. Calculating the Calorie/Protein ratio though, tells us which food contains the most amount of protein for the least amount of calories for the same weight of food. The lower the Cal/Protein ratio is, the less we need to eat the stuff to get the necessary protein.
- So we know which food is lowest in calories and highest in protein but what if we need volume. Let’s dig a bit deeper into Excel capabilities and find it out! Let’s assume, we target 20g protein per meal and we don’t eat anything else that could contain any protein. This table shows us that we can drink more than two cups of (645.2g) soy milk to get 20g protein and that will contain 206.5kcal. If we order the table, then we can also see which food items have the highest weight for 20g of protein.
- We can go even further to see which food has the highest volume for any given calories then organize the list accordingly. The higher the ratio is, the more protein is provided for each consumed calories so essentially we can eat more of the stuff. Consequently, the lower the ratio is, the less protein is provided for any given calories which means eating the required amount of protein from such food will provide way more calories than most of us would like to see on a calorie restricted diet.