Healthy Eating for Your Active Lifestyle

Chances are this is not the first blog that you have read on protein. We have written about it before as have many others.

However, with the huge amount of information available, it can get tricky to navigate what is a fad vs., evidence-based fact.The other side of the coin is that research is an ever-evolving process. I would encourage you to keep up with your reading, such as with these blogs, where we try our best to keep YOU in the know. 

Protein 101

On the off chance that this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon a credible blog I want to give you a quick summary of why protein matters! Protein is one of three KEY energy-yielding macronutrients (the other two being fat and carbohydrates). Protein is made up of small molecules called amino acids. Our bodies require 20 amino acids for health and while we can actually produce 11 ourselves, 9 of those amino acids must be consumed from food sources. Amino acids are the building blocks of our muscle tissues – not just the muscles you are working on building when pumping weights at the gym, but also vital organs such as your heart! Beyond muscles, protein also helps to build up immune cells and hormones to keep our bodies balanced.

The most common question: How much do I need?

Research tells us that our bodies have a finite capacity for using protein effectively. Aiming for a daily total is not nearly as important as a “per-meal-total.” For an average female, aim for 15-21g of protein at meals and for average males closer to 25-30g/meal.

For example, one of my favorite high protein breakfasts is this Make-Ahead Berry Breakfast Parfait. As an active female, that means I need around 15-21g protein. This recipe includes Greek yogurt, a delicious and easy source of protein to include at breakfast. Alternatively, 1/2 cup of cottage cheese or 2 eggs would provide a similar amount of protein.

Just remember: more is notalways better when it comes to protein.

I don’t include certain foods in my diet - what about supplements?

For those of you who choose plant-based diets or perhaps need to avoid other protein containing foods for health reasons, I would encourage you to always seek food first before dipping your scoop into the protein powder industry. While there certainly is a purpose for these products, consider these alternatives:

  • Swap ground meat for lentils or black beans in recipes
  • Include dairy products at meals and snacks as they are a naturally good source of protein. Consider trying lactose-free yogurts such as Skyr if you struggle with digesting lactose in regular dairy products
  • Choose higher protein grains such as quinoa in place of white rice
  • Add nuts or seeds to snacks, salads or your morning oats to give yourself a boost of protein
  • Choose soy products such as tofu or tempeh in your meals to ensure you have a protein source in place of meats

If you do choose a protein powder, ensure that you do your research and choose one that is third party tested. Working directly with a registered dietitian is the best way to ensure you are meeting your specific protein targets to support your nutrition goals.

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Barbara Ingliss, RD

Registered Dietitian

Barbara (BSc, RD) is an Edmonton-based registered dietitian and blogger for Nourish Move Thrive®. She enjoys helping her clients develop healthy relationships with food and themselves.

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