A recent study has revealed that almost half of Irish adults over 40 aren't getting enough protein in their diet!
Proteins are the building blocks within the body, it helps us maintain muscle mass, balances our blood sugars and acts as fuels for hundreds of thousands of reactions in the body.
These are signs that you are not getting enough protein in your diet:
- You're always getting sick
- You’re very easily irritated
- You find that you're muscles are sore for a week after a gym session (this suggests poor muscle recovery)
- You can't get your hair or nails to grow
- You find yourself snacking all the time
- You’re hungry very soon after meals (protein is very satiating)
- You have got stress fractures
Protein is commonly associated with athletes due to its necessity in muscle building and maintenance but adequate protein intake is important for everyone and becomes more important as we age. Consumption of protein can ward against and reverse the age-related degenerative condition Sarcopenia linked to falls, functional decline, frailty and mortality.
Protein is also a key factor in weight loss and weight management due to the thermogenic effect (TEF) protein has in the body. The thermogenic effect is how much energy is required for the body to digest protein - put simply, digesting and metabolising protein burns more calories than other macronutrients. The TEF for protein is understood to be as high as 20–30% of energy content compared to fat (0–3%) and carbohydrates (5–10%). This is one of the reasons protein is favoured in the diet for people who are looking to drop body fat. The other reasons are that it helps maintain lean muscle mass which can be lost while dieting and it keeps you feeling fuller for longer as it keeps your blood sugars stable.
How much do you need?
Our nutritionists generally recommend aiming for 1.5g per kg of body weight but closer to 2g per kg of body weight if you are very active.
So, if you your weight is 65kg: 1.5g x 65kg = 97.5g protein
Here are 6 Easy Ways to Get More Protein in your Diet:
- Prioritise Protein at Breakfast
Many individuals' protein intake at breakfast is very low. If you are opting for foods like cereal, granola, toast or fruit to start your day, you’re likely not getting enough protein.
All of these foods are great but we need to pair them with a good protein source to make the meal more balanced. This could look like adding Greek yogurt or a protein powder to your porridge or swapping your corn flakes for scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and toast.
Having a high protein breakfast has been shown to provide a unique opportunity to set yourself up well for the day in terms of controlling your blood sugar levels from when you wake (when your blood sugar levels are balanced you will feel more energetic, have improved mental clarity and will be much less likely to get those afternoon cravings!).
2. Swap Natural Yogurt for Greek Yogurt
Typically most normal yogurts contain about 4g of protein per 100g. If you make the simple swap to Greek yogurt, you most likely will more than double the protein content. Most brands like Glenisk and Fage pack a brilliant 10g of protein per 100g. Greek yogurts are a little thicker in consistency for this reason but they are delicious and a firm favourite of ours for a high-protein breakfast or snack!
3. Add plant proteins to your Traditional Meat Based Dishes
There are a huge number of people who do not have any plant proteins in their diet. This is usually simply as a result of habitually eating the same foods. A great way to start to add more plant proteins like peas, beans and legumes into your diet is to add them into your favourite meat dishes. For example, lentils go really well with beef bolognaise and kidney beans are an excellent addition to chilli con carne! This is a great way to easily incorporate more protein and variety into your diet without it feeling too drastic.
4. Opt for High Protein Snacks
Our favourite high protein snacks:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Nuts; almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts etc.
- Greek yogurt, the single serve tubs are super for on-the-go
- Hummus and carrot sticks
- Beef jerky
- Protein bars, the Fulfil protein bars are so widely available now and are delicious!
- Banana & peanut butter
5. Add More Nuts & Seeds into your Diet
Nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin and sunflower seeds) are a great source of protein alongside other nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and selenium and the average Irish person doesn't get enough of these nutrients and minerals. Nuts and seeds can be easily added into the diet as a snack (nice paired with some dark chocolate!), via nut/seed butters or sprinkled on soups, oats or on yogurt.
6. Boost your Intake with a Protein Supplement
While supplementing with a protein powder is by no means essential to meeting your protein needs, it can be a really convenient way to up your protein intake. As with all supplements, be mindful of the quality of the supplement you are choosing.
Over the last few months we did a huge amount of research and trialled lots of different protein supplements to find a really high quality protein powder that also tastes amazing and Hemp Heros was our clear winner. This is a plant based protein supplement made from a combination of hemp seed, brown rice and organic pea protein which makes it a complete protein - this is really important when selecting a plant based protein supplement as if there is only one form of protein the amino acid profile will not be ‘complete’ and therefore is not as good. It is also very difficult to find a plant based protein supplement that tastes good - this is the best one we have tried! A smooth chocolate flavour with excellent mixability - and it’s Irish which is an added bonus!