Too little. Too much. Just right.
WHAT ARE PROTEINS?
Proteins are essential macronutrients that consist of chains of amino acids.
Proteins perform different functions in the body based on their shape.
There are nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot make and must be taken from food.
There are eleven non-essential amino acids that the human body can manufacture.
WHAT ARE COMPLETE PROTEINS?
WHAT ARE INCOMPLETE PROTEINS?
Disadvantages of depending on plant sources for your proteins
Legumes, seeds and nuts contain little protein compared to animal sources which means you have to eat more of these sources to cover your daily requirement of protein, consequently increasing your carb and fat intake beyond your caloric needs. This will likely increase your weight. It may also be very tricky to get all your essential amino acids from these sources.
HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR PROTEIN REQUIREMENT?
First calculate your ideal body weight.
For each 1 Kg of ideal body weight, you need about 1 g of protein.
For example, (regardless of your current body weight), if your ideal body weight is 50 kg then you need about 50g of proteins per day.
If you are not physically active, you will need less.
If you are bodybuilding to increase muscle mass, you will need more.
You can also try this Protein Calculator (I find the WHO calculation more reasonable than other options on this site)
Remember this is just an estimate. You need to figure out the right amount yourself by trial and error.
=> LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
If you are on a high carb diet then you really cannot trust your body’s cues because insulin secretion following each carb meal will pull out the sugar from your blood and into your cells and make you feel hungry soon after even if you’ve had enough calories. This will increase cravings and eating.
If you are on a low carb diet/animal protein/good fats then your body’s cues are much more reliable. Eat mindfully, chew slowly (avoid being on your phone or watching a video while eating) and listen to your body’s cues to detect satiation. You can also watch your weight with a given amount of protein intake.
=> If your weight increases, it means you are eating too much protein (or too much fats) (all excess protein beyond your energy requirement is transformed into glucose and then stored as fat if it is not used)
=>If you are losing weight then you may not be getting enough proteins (or not enough good fats).
TOO LITTLE, TOO MUCH
Eating too little proteins from animal sources or eating too much of them are both problematic situations. (These are common problems with vegetarian and keto diets)
Eating too little proteins will prevent your body from functioning properly. It will impair growth, repair, your immune system and all body processes that rely on enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals).
Eating too much protein may increase uric acid in the blood. (Uric acid results from the breakdown of proteins). Excess uric acid can lead to joint pain and arthritis as well as kidney stones.
Eating just right is key.
For one week, weigh your proteins on a scale to get an idea of the size of the portions.
For a person trying to get 50g of protein/day, they can have:
2 eggs (12g of proteins)
200 ml of milk (7g of proteins)
100g of salmon (20g of proteins)
50g of cheese - 2 slices- (12g of proteins)
Get your daily protein requirements from animal sources
Eat as much non-starchy vegetables as you want
Consider legumes, starchy vegetables and fruits as carbs (eat them in moderation or limit them if you are trying to lose weight or control diabetes)
Consider seeds and nuts as fats (eat them in moderation as sources of energy to cover your daily energy requirements)
Drink lots of water and herbal teas throughout the day. Sometimes our body confuses thirst with hunger.
Remember this plate from the Switch Challenge?
BONUS GIFT: MY CHOCO-LOCO RECIPE
1 Tbsp of any seed grounded (flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds …)
1 Tbsp of any nut butters (Almond, peanut, hazelnut…)
1 tsp of plain organic cocoa powder
A tiny drizzle of honey
Mix them together into a paste and add raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or strawberries
Try other sweet things in life, like spending time with loved ones, being out in nature, following your passions….
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About the author
Abir Ballan has a Masters in Public Health, a graduate degree in special needs education and a BA in psychology. She is a children’s author with 27 books.