Understanding Food Labels; Part 2, Protein

As one of the macronutrients protein is regarded as the building block essential for growth and repair. All protein is made up of Amino Acids of which there are 21. Unfortunately your body can only produce 12 of these, the rest known as Essential Amino Acids must come from the diet.  Some food sources known as complete proteins contain all 9 of these Essential Amino Acids whereas others may only contain a few. These are referred to as incomplete Amino Acids.  By adding incomplete protein foods together such as beans on toast or cheese and pasta the result is a meal containing all the essential amino acids!

Complete Proteins; milk and dairy, poultry, fish, meat, tofu and soy milk

Incomplete Proteins; rice, grains, nuts, beans, pasta, lentils, fruit and vegetables

So how much do you need? Well if you are pretty active around 1.4 – 1.8g / kg body weight should be ample. That means if you weigh 100kg (220lbs) then you will need 140 – 180g (5-7 ounces) per day, considering a 100g of tuna (3 ounces) will give you 27g (1 ounce) of protein and a tin of beans will give you around 17g it soon adds up. If you are training then protein is essential, without it in your diet you may as well kiss the possibility of you getting any stronger goodbye !!

Digressing a little experts recommend eating a meal rich in protein and carbohydrate soon after a workout, suggesting that there is a  ‘Window of opportunity’ whereby protein synthesis is greater in the period immediately after exercise. A protein shake, chicken or tuna sandwich, pasta with vegetables and lean meat or beans on toast will all help your post exercise recovery.


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