Coaches Corner

Protein diet: what do you need to know

6 Apr 2022

So you want to try a protein diet? There are some things to consider. Somerton nutritionist Aleasha Kiddle tells about a protein diet and how to follow it.


If you were ever interested in gaining or losing weight, you definitely have heard about a protein or high protein diet. But what is this diet? Are you supposed to gain weight or get thinner? Is it more for muscles or against extra pounds? Sport Session coaches have the answers to all your questions.

Expertise shared by Sport Session coach Aleasha Kiddle.

Nutrition

Why would you need a protein or high-protein diet?

Many people choose to adopt a protein diet to lose weight. The mechanism is simple. You eat more proteins and feel full throughout the day. Consequently, you eat fewer carbohydrates and calories overall. Hence, your weight reduces.

Athletes, however, may adopt a high-protein diet to gain their muscles and increase strength. Apart from protein-rich products they can consume different protein powders, cocktails or bars. A protein diet for gaining muscles requires a more careful approach to your nutrition and needs to be combined with systematic physical training.

Nutrition

But if you do not wish to lose weight or gain strength, do not neglect your daily portion of proteins as it is a vital part of a human’s diet.

  • Proteins are classified as a ‘macronutrient’ as we require larger quantities of proteins for optimal health and good athletic performance. Proteins provide the raw materials for muscle, bone, skin and hair regeneration and also play an important role in the functioning of your immune system. So it is basically the core of your strength.
  • Structurally proteins are made from long chains of 20 different types of amino acids. 9 of these cannot be produced by the body and are classified as ‘essential’. As our body doesn’t store amino acids, we require their daily supply from our diet. 
  • Minimum 10-12% of our total calorie intake needs to be in the form of protein. The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is set at 0.8g of protein per kilogram body weight per day. It means around 65g for an 80kg adult.

For active individuals, this amount steadily increases from 1.2g to 2g per kg depending on the type and intensity of the activity, endurance or strength of the athletes and variations between off-season or in-competition demands.

Nutrition

What do you eat on a protein diet?

I recommend whole food sources of protein like lean meats, poultry, free-range eggs, high-quality dairy and fish. They are complete sources of protein that contain all 9 essential amino acids. As a guide, aim for your protein source to be around the same size as the palm of your hand per meal.  

Protein can be found in a variety of sources like: 

  • Chickpeas (14.6 grams per cup);
  • Quinoa (8 grams per cup);
  • Sunflower seed kernels (7.3 grams per ¼ cup);
  • Even spirulina has 4 grams of protein per tablespoon!

One strategy is to ensure we consume protein within a specific time frame to enhance muscular repair and adaptations. For example, you can have a post-workout shake with whey protein.

If you are vegan or can't tolerate dairy products, you may choose alternative sources like hemp, pea or brown rice powders for a convenient protein boost.

One more piece of advice. Casein is digested at a slower rate. Some people choose to supplement with this milk protein before going to sleep as a method to enhance muscular repair.

Nutrition

Things to beware of while on a protein diet

No matter, how appealing a protein diet may sound, you shouldn’t take it lightly. Increasing the amount of one group of nutrients and restricting another is a serious process. Aleasha Kiddle gives points you should be careful about while on a protein diet.

Lower protein intakes can be seen more in strict vegetarians or vegans. If we don’t consume complete proteins, we can miss out on certain amino acids like lysine, methionine and tryptophan. The key is to combine a mixture of plant protein sources e.g., nuts, legumes, seeds and grains, to provide multiple sources of amino acids.

Noticeable differences can occur from adapting our protein intake, timing and source of protein for weight management goals, lean muscle gain and athletic performance. If you have higher protein requirements, you should consider the quality of different types of protein. 

My advice would be to purchase your protein from reputable sources – particularly if you are a competing athlete. Consume only verified products. Check if your protein powders are tested for heavy metals and contain minimal artificial additives and fillers that can impact absorption and your overall health.

Health should always be the main goal – organic protein powders may be more expensive but ensure you minimise your exposure to toxins.

It’s easy to fall for gimmicky, ultra-processed protein foods e.g., ‘mars protein bar’ as they may seem appealing but ingredients like ‘glucose syrup’ and ‘invert sugar syrup’ should not be a regular occurrence in your diet and could cause sugar crashes, stomach problems and even affect your overall health.

Nutrition

Choose your coach

As you see, making a protein diet requires special knowledge about digestion, nutrients, body structure and processes that happen in our body. If you want simply to increase the number of proteins in your ration, follow these tips. However, if you want to adopt a protein diet for muscle growth, you need a ration designed specifically for the needs of your body.

Choose your nutrition coach at Sport Session and he/she will help you to improve your diet and achieve your goals.



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