What is protein?

Protein is an essential macronutrient found in many foods. Protein is made from amino acids. Your body can make some amino acids but not all of them, making it necessary to obtain amino acids from food.

Protein is used by your body to provide building blocks for growth for repairing cells such as muscles, skin, and nails. Proteins also make enzymes and hormones, which are required for key body functions.1

How much protein do I need?

For most adults over 19 years old, Health Canada recommends 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day of protein.3

Do I need more protein if I am physically active?

Adequate protein intake improves your body’s response to athletic training and helps shorten the time you need to recover after exercise.4

If you exercise regularly and intensely, your protein needs will be higher than average.

For both endurance and strength exercise, aim for 1.2 – 2.0 g/kg of body weight per day of protein.

Although protein is important, make sure you eat enough calories to maintain your weight, otherwise protein will be used for fuel rather than to build and repair muscle in the body.2

Should I have protein right after a workout?

Research shows that the total amount of protein consumed during the days you train is more important than if you eat protein right after exercise. However, it is recommended to have a meal or snack consisting of protein within a few hours of exercise to help with muscle repair, growth, and recovery.

Dietitians of Canada recommend dividing your protein into 3-4 evenly spaced meals or snacks throughout the day to ensure you meet your protein requirements. At each meal or snack, aim for 15-25 grams of protein and include protein from a variety of different food sources. Eating a variety of foods will also help you get a range of vitamins and minerals that are important for your body.2

What foods are high in protein?

Canada’s food guide recommends consuming protein foods from plants more often, as they provide more fiber and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods.6

  • tofu – 14 g per ¼ package5
  • hemp seeds – 13 g per ¼ cup
  • nuts and seeds  – 7 g per ¼ cup
  • peanut butter – 7 g per 2 tbsp
  • quinoa – 4 g per ½ cup
  • rice – 3 g per ½ cup2
  • beans, peas, and lentils
  • other soy products

If I am physically active, do I need protein powder?

Research shows that a protein supplement can help optimize muscle training response during exercise and subsequent recovery periods.

While high intakes of protein are safe, there is no benefit to consuming more than recommended amounts. If you are physically active, you can probably eat enough foods that contain protein to meet your needs for protein. If needed, protein supplements and protein-fortified food and beverage products can help you get enough protein.4

References

  1. Dietitians of Canada. (2019). Quick Nutrition Check for Protein. Retrieved from https://www-pennutrition-com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/viewhandout.aspx?Portal=UbY=&id=JMfqXQM=&PreviewHandout=bA==
  2. Dietitians of Canada. (2018). Protein in Sports Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www-pennutrition-com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/viewhandout.aspx?Portal=UbY=&id=J8HrXwc=&PreviewHandout=bA==
  3. Health Canada. (2006, June 29). Dietary Reference Intakes. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/dietary-reference-intakes/tables/reference-values-macronutrients-dietary-reference-intakes-tables-2005.html
  4. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. (2017, October 4). Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance. Retrieved from https://ods-od-nih-gov.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-Consumer/
  5. Sunrise Soya Foods. (n.d.). Sunrise Extra Firm Tofu. Retrieved from https://www.sunrise-soya.com/products/sunrise/sunrise-extra-firm-tofu/
  6. Government of Canada. (2019, December 4). Eat protein foods. Retrieved from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/make-it-a-habit-to-eat-vegetables-fruit-whole-grains-and-protein-foods/eat-protein-foods/

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