'Eat Right' Challenge, Protein - Day 14

Emma White - Nutritionist

Protein can raise a lot of questions when it comes to dieting. Here we address some common protein-related questions raised by our members.

I keep going over my protein target – is that a problem?

Having more protein than you need isn't a problem in the short term, but having excess protein regularly may result in some digestive issues. The maximum protein intake recommended for adults is around 2g per kg body weight per day, but aiming for less than 1g/kg body weight per day is sensible.

Are protein-enriched food products worth buying, or is it just an excuse to charge more? e.g. cereal bars/ice cream

Getting your protein from natural foods is the best option. Protein-enriched foods aren't necessary. Be careful that the products you buy aren't just more expensive and have additional less healthy ingredients such as high fat, sugar, and salt levels. Add another protein-rich food e.g. chicken slices, veg sticks and peanut butter dip, a pot of Greek yogurt, to your daily intake instead of spending out on a 'protein-enriched' product.

I'm a vegan – is it harder for me to hit my protein target, and what should I do about it?

Being vegan doesn't mean you can't hit your protein target, but it might just mean you need to be super organised with your meal planning. Plant-based protein sources are widely available but make sure you have a good variety of different foods to ensure you are getting all the essential amino acids you need. Lentils, chickpeas, edamame (soya), beans, peas, tofu, spelt, nuts and nut butters are all great sources of protein.

Will eating more protein make me build muscle faster?

The simple answer is no! Protein from our diets is just the 'fuel' that our muscles need to grow and develop. The only way to make your muscles grow and build faster is to work them – whatever type of exercise you choose, and whatever muscles it uses, helps the muscles to grow. Yes, we need the dietary protein for the muscle to physically grow, so having a good dietary source of amino acids is vital, but it's the physical work that does the job. Studies have shown that having a protein-rich meal or snack up to 30 mins after a workout helps our muscles to recover more quickly too.

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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