Wellness Wednesday - Protein 101

Our latest blog is a really great post giving us some basic and foundational knowledge in regards to protein. Jill Domke is not only a really smart Physical Therapist, but also is well versed in pilates, and a triathlete as well. She helps provide us a really practical framework on protein. Check it out! - Dave



As an athlete or recreational fitness enthusiast , your body uses sugars, fats, and proteins for fuel in the activity of your liking. These need to be replaced for optimum performance. Also, our skin, bones, nails, hair, and blood enzymes are made up of mostly protein. In the case of dieting and weight loss, protein curbs hunger and keeps us feeling satiated longer, partly due to helping to keep blood sugar levels from spiking and dropping. Thus, protein at breakfast can really help curb your appetite for the entire day, causing you to eat less total calories overall. Also, the fewer calories you consume, it is even more essential to keep your protein intake on the upper levels of the recommended norm. This allows your body to preserve its muscle mass, which is desirable because muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than fat tissue Also, for physical therapy clients healing and repairing from surgeries or injuries, protein is even more essential to help grow and repair new tissue.

The necessary daily intake of protein is dependentprimarily on your body weight.  It will increase with frequency and intensity of physical activity. Below is a guideline of the RDA’s recommended protein intake. Generally 15-25% of total daily calories is recommended. Here are normal protein needs:

  • Basic sedentary adult:   .8g protein per kg body weight (divide weight in pounds by 2.2 for kg)
  • Active adult light-moderate exercise 30-60 minutes/day:   1.0 g per kg body weight
  • Active athletic adult1-3 hours exercise per day:    1.2 g protein/kg body weight
  • Athletic adult >4 hours of endurance exercise or heavy strength trainingto build muscle mass:    1.8-2.0g protein per kg body weight.

With the above guidelines, it is also important to be aware that your body can only process so much protein in one sitting and per day. Any excess will, like other nutrients, be stored as fat. Some researchers say that taking in up to twice the RDA is “safe and a good range to aim for.” It is important to space your protein intake over the day’s meals and snacks as opposed to loading up at dinner. As mentioned previously, eating adequate protein early in the day is especially helpful.

Protein can come from many animal and plant based sources. Nuts and beans are a good source, but dairy products, eggs, meat, fish improved more complete protein with the balance of essential amino acids that your body needs. Also, beans and legumes are protein sources that are combined with carbohydrates. Nuts are protein sources that are combined with higher content of calorie-dense fats. Fats and carbohydrates are not bad nutrients, but one needs to be conscious of the additional sources of nutrients/calories that come with the protein, especially if weight loss is a goal. For an athlete who’s desire is to maintain body weight, these protein sources make eating a balanced diet more simple. Also, if only plant based proteins are eaten, they need to be combined with certain grains at one meal or over the time in a day, in order to get a complete protein. The exception is quinoa, which is a grain that is actually a complete protein with a good fiber content as well. Below is a list of good protein sources. The best easy attainable sources are fish, eggs, Greek yogurts, and low fat milk.

  • 3 oz tuna, salmon ,haddock, trout                                                                       21g
  • 3 oz cooked turkey, chicken                                                                               19g
  • 6 oz fruit flavored Greek yogurt                                                                     12-13g
  • 1/4 c cottage cheese                                                                                           14g
  • 1/2 c cooked beans                                                                                              8 g
  • 1 c 1% milk                                                                                                           8 g
  • 1 c cooked pasta                                                                                                  8 g
  • 1/4 c (1 oz) nuts                                                                                                     7g
  • 1 egg (protein is in the white)                                                                              6-7g
  • 1 oz almond cheese (1 g fat)                                                                                  7g
  • Kale (1 cup)                                                                                                            3g
  • 1 c cooked quinoa (1/2 c uncooked)                                                                      8g

The most important thing to realize is that the research on optimal amount of protein to eat for good health is ongoing. The value of high protein diets as the best method for weight loss is still controversial, but many people have found success with this, perhaps due to the fact that they are cutting out empty calories like simple sugars, white breads, and eating higher amounts of fruits and vegetables . What we do know is that a balanced diet with lean meats or protein sources, fresh fruits and vegetables, less processed products, and less refined sugar is a good base of a healthy diet. In addition, food is apersonal, social and cultural enjoyment, which is a very personal preference and choice. Everything in moderation is always a good policy. Bon appétit! 

- Jill Domke