You may already know that protein helps build and repair body tissues as well as build antibodies that fight disease. Last month, the Canadian Nutrition Society in collaboration with Dietitians of Canada, hosted the Conference on Advances in Protein Nutrition Across the Lifespan. We were there and heard an update from leading researchers in the field. Here are key highlights about the role of protein in exercise, weight loss and chronic disease management.
Athletes: Eating the right amount of protein at the right time has critical implications for athletes. To build muscle, Dr. Stuart Phillips at McMaster University recommends eating four equally spaced protein containing meals per day, (0.25-0.3 g protein/kg body weight/meal), PLUS a 40 g protein intake at bedtime to ensure muscle building proteins are on board while you sleep. For those interested in protein supplements, whey is best since it’s a fast absorbing high quality protein.
Weight Loss & General Health: Eating enough protein helps you feel fuller. Keep snacking at bay, and include at least 30 g protein with each meal, especially at breakfast.
The quality of protein is an important consideration for meal planning, especially for vegetarian diets. How much protein containing food do you need to eat to meet your requirements for essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein? It depends on the source! Foods containing high quality proteins require lower calorie intake to meet your essential amino acid requirements, according to Dr. Robert Wolfe, an expert on healthy aging from the University of Arkansas. For example, you may need to eat 6 times as many calories in chickpeas to get the amino acids available in one serving of lean turkey meat.
Aging & Chronic Illness: Muscle building in the body is triggered when enough of the amino acid leucine is present. When people consume small amounts of protein, the threshold of leucine needed to trigger muscle building may not be reached. Researchers including Dr. John Hoffer at the University of McGill recommend at least 30 g protein per meal to stimulate muscle building. The tip for the ill and elderly patients may be to discourage nibbling, so they are sufficiently hungry at mealtime to eat enough protein to reach the threshold for muscle building to kick in.