Protein is vital for human physiology because it supplies the body with amino acids – the biochemical entities that make and repair body tissues including muscle, skin, bone, organs, nails and hair. Protein also assists in hormone production, regulation of metabolism, building of enzymes and making antibodies and immune system molecules.
When training and in competition it is important to time your protein (and other macro and micro nutrient) consumption correctly in order to:
- maximise training performance
- balance energy
- improve body composition
- ensure the nutrients you are eating are going to the right place to be ingested – e.g. maximising the efficiency of hormones such as insulin (insulin regulates nutrient entry in to cells)
The body can only store a small pool of amino acids so we must replace them regularly through a protein-rich diet – ideally, eating protein at every meal and snack.
Research has shown that spreading your protein intake throughout your day is the optimal way to build and maintain muscle. This means that you need to look for a protein source at every meal and snack. This habit will also help stabilise blood sugar and subsequently, your energy levels.
Calculating the right amount of protein for you and your training requirements is something to discuss with an expert in sports/performance nutrition. The guidelines available are quite generic and it is vital that you as an individual and your specific training regimen is taken in to consideration before allocating a ‘per kilo of body weight’ formula.
A few examples of not getting the balance quite right include:
- Excess intake can create undesirable end products which the liver and kidneys have to filter and this can put stress on these organs
- Deficient intake can cause lack of strength, increase rate of infection & irritability
Here’s an easy, protein-filled snack recipe – protein bliss balls:
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup dates (soaked in warm water for 10mins)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup hemp seeds
- 2 tablespoons nut butter (almond, cashew etc)
- 2 tablespoons protein powder
- 1/3 cup coconut of macadamia oil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon spirulina powder
- 1/2 cup honey
Mix everything together in a food processor until well combined. Roll in to 2cm balls, then roll balls in seeds of choice (hemp, sesame, poppy etc). Store in the fridge.