I’m going to shout this bit. Protein is VITAL for our bodies, even more so as we get older and it’s not just about keeping fat levels down…(but yes, I’ll talk about that too). First we’re going to look at how it makes our bodies beautiful.
Brace yourselves for some background. Every single cell of our body is made up of protein. The enzymes involved in the thousands of chemical processes in the body (digestion, metabolism, energy production) they’re proteins. Proteins help transport nutrients, they build up our immune system (Covid…ahem…just throwing that in there) and they repair muscles, hair, skin and nails. Collagen, the stuff that gives our skin its elasticity, that’s a protein too. Look at your leg muscles – they’re attached to the hip and knee by tendons and ligaments. All of that is made of protein. Protein is therefore the second most abundant compound in our body (the first is water). Have I said the word protein enough?
Stay with me…nearly finished the boring bit. Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids…and 8 of those we need to get from our food, the rest are formed within the body. That means fish, tofu, meat, eggs, milks, yogurt, nuts, seeds, pulses and yes, even bread and oats have some protein. Among the signs you’re not getting enough are slow healing wounds, fatigue, constant illness and weak nails.
‘That’s all very well’ I hear you say, but how much protein should I have each day?. It depends on your lifestyle. The more active you are, the more you will need. The recommended amount per day is currently 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight. I’m 61 kilos so that means I should have 45g of protein per day (which is roughly one 200g bowl of high protein natural yogurt and a 100g chicken breast). BUT if you’re like me and have your sights set on an active old age, want to have well supported joints, a good level of strength, half decent skin and hair and keep fistfuls of love-handle fat to a bearable minimum, then you will need much more protein than that. Read on.
Having toned dense muscles will mean your metabolic rate increases (the rate at which you burn calories during the day). That means using them, possibly even challenging them. We’re not talking Olympic weight-lifting just a regular dose of strength training.
Moreover, eating more protein keeps you full (it switches off the hunger hormone ghrelin) so you’ll be less likely to snack. A 2-3 egg omelette filled with ham and feta cheese for lunch will have far fewer calories than that 1/2 baguette and crisps. And it will keep you full without the need for an afternoon nap. It’s all a win-win so far.
Muscle is a tissue we need for our health now and into our golden years. Keeping it toned (and metabolically active) means using it and feeding it with protein. As we age we lose muscle because our appetites reduce (allegedly… not showing any signs so far) and then our muscles wither. Joints become fragile and unstable. Cheery I know.
So Deadman’s Protein Charter is this. For a healthy, strong, active life USE those lovely muscles and then FEED them!. Aim for 1g-2g protein per kilo of your body weight per day dependent on your activity levels (I’m on around 120g per day), men might need more. Tot up how much you eat each day and I think you’ll find it very revealing. An easy way to make up the total you have set yourself, is through supplement protein powders (and no, they’re not just for beefcakes at the gym). Daremotvation.com do a lovely choc and peanut butter version and mixing a scoop with water packs in 20g of protein along with other essential nutrients. Fizzing metabolism, full tummy and happy hormones are coming your way.
(Originally written by Annie Deadman for Woman&Home magazine, August issue 2021).