Myths about protein busted
Protein enjoys a hallowed reputation as being both the bodybuilder and the dieter’s best friend, thanks to its part in building muscle and making us feel fuller. But there are so many myths about protein that it can be difficult to know how it can benefit you, or whether you should be focusing on your protein intake at all. So let’s bust some myths about protein…
Myths about protein...busted!
Myth: It’s only for bodybuilders
While it’s true that protein is essential for building muscle, and that bodybuilders eat a lot of protein to hit their goals, we should all be making sure that we’re getting enough protein.
Protein helps the body to build muscle and repair damaged tissue, earning it the nickname of the ‘building blocks of life’. It can also help to keep our hormones in check and make sure our immune system is functioning properly.
The British Heart Foundation recommends that most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day. So, for example, if you weigh 117kg (that’s 260lbs, or 18 stone 4), you’d need to eat around 88g of protein a day.
The daily reference intake for protein (which is what you see on food packaging) is set at 50g of protein a day, which is a good base number to aim for.
Myth: You can only get enough protein with supplements or protein powder
Protein powders, shakes and bars have exploded in popularity in recent years, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that you need to chug down a protein shake to hit your daily protein goals. But in reality, there are many everyday foods that are great sources of protein and if possible you should aim to reach your protein goals through your meals.
Here are some foods that are high in protein:
One chicken breast – roughly 54g of protein.
One pork chop – roughly 52g of protein.
One can of tuna (in spring water) – 39g of protein
100g of Fage Total 0% Greek yoghurt – 10g of protein
Myth: Protein doesn’t help you lose weight
Protein alone won’t help you lose weight – you have to keep an eye on your calorie intake as a whole in order to lose weight, and foods that are high in protein still have calories, so eating too much means eating too many calories. But having said that, eating foods that are high in protein can help you lose weight.
Protein can make you feel fuller for longer as it digests slower than carbohydrates do, so if you make sure you include protein-rich foods at every meal, you may find that you eat less because of this.
There have also been several studies that found that people lose weight when they increase their protein intake, with one even finding that the people studied cut their daily calorie intake by over 400 a day just by increasing the amount of protein they ate.
Myth: You can only get protein from meat
When thinking about sources of protein, the ones that come to mind are usually animal-based, like chicken breasts (31g of protein per 100g), eggs (6g of protein in one large egg) and milk (3.6g per 100ml). They are all excellent sources of protein, but there are many plant-based foods that are high in protein too.
This is obviously good news for vegetarians and vegans, who can sometimes find it more difficult to eat enough protein.
Some good plant-based sources of protein include chickpeas (19g of protein per 100g), tofu (8g of protein per 100g), lentils (9g of protein per 100g) and popular meat-replacement seitan (a whopping 75g of protein per 100g).
Myth: It’s hard to get enough protein
Because of protein’s reputation as being something that bulks you up if you eat enough of it, you might be thinking that getting enough in your diet is a hard task.
But if in one meal you eat one chicken breast that weighs 200g, that’s 62g of protein (and 330 calories), and you’ve already met the recommended daily amount of protein for adults.
A lunch of tuna (half a tin – 19.5g of protein) and a baked potato (medium potato, 4.3g of protein) followed by 100g of Greek yoghurt (10g of protein) with a tbsp of honey (0.04g of protein – hey, not everything is high in protein!) puts you at almost 34g of protein, so you can see how it can add up over the day.
If you do find it difficult to reach your protein goals, you may want to think about adding a protein shake or bar to your diet. In our experience, a lot of protein bars taste very artificial, but Battle Bites (glazed sprinkled doughnut flavour – 220 calories, 21g protein), Fulfil bars (chocolate salted caramel flavour – 204 calories, 20g protein) and Grenade Carb Killa bars (white chocolate cookie flavour – 215 calories, 22.4g protein) are all decent. The Protein Pick n Mix is a good site for figuring out what’s good if you don’t want to commit to buying a box of the same flavour.
There’s no need to limit yourself to just shakes or bars either, as you can get all sorts of things that have been designed to have more protein. There are protein crisps, protein energy drinks, protein cookies and even protein-enhanced pasta.