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Asked by Luke to Andrew, Dan, Helen, Katy, LauraAnne on 17 Nov 2016.
It depends on your definition of a lot. A balanced diet is really important but some people, particularly vegetarians or vegans, might not get as much protein as their body needs. We are also starting to understand that some sports people may need to consume more protein than they may do habitually when they are training hard to help them recover.
The current guidelines for sport are that it is a good idea to eat around 1.2 – 2.0 grams per kg of body mass per day (so for a 60kg woman that would be between 72 and 120g per day), depending on the requirements of the sport – strength and power sports will be at the upper end and endurance sports toward the lower end. The recommendations for non athletes are 0.8 grams per kg of body mass per day.
A lot of studies have looked at protein feeding after exercise, often using a snack containing around 20g of protein. It has been shown that eating around 20g protein after exercise for a normal adult can help to aid recovery and muscle adaptation to training.
20g protein is approximately equivalent to:
80g prawns, sardines or tuna
100g lean beef or salmon
2.5 cups milk
a pot of high protein quark, skyr or greek yoghurt
180g cottage cheese
a single portion of whey protein shake
From this you can see how it might be a bit harder for vegetarians (take out the meat, and maybe fish), or particularly vegans (take out the eggs, whey and dairy products) to get the protein that they need, especially if they are training.
The best rule for eating healthily is to eat a little bit of everything, and not too much of anything. Protein is an important part of our diet to allow our cells to repair and grow, a typical adult needs about 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein in their diet every day for every kilogram they weigh. For most people, they will get this by having healthy balanced meals, e.g. some chicken or beef with some vegetables and carbohydrate. An athlete in heavy training however might need up to 1.7 grams of protein for every kilogram they weigh. This can be achieved by eating more meat or eggs, or using protein shakes. Our body can only use so much protein we eat – it will only use the amount needed for repair. If we consume too much it is usually just removed as part of our urine, so there is no benefit to eating too much of it.
A balanced diet is extremely important, so eating too much of one macro nutrient would not be recommended. As both Laura Anne and Helen have already mentioned the recommended amounts of protein for athletes is generally higher than for the general population. Older adults also have different protein requirements, since skeletal muscle declines with age.The result of this is a higher requirement for older adults of 1.0 gram per kilogram of body weight. So the importance of dietary protein cannot be underestimated in the diets of older adults; inadequate protein intake contributes to a decreased immune function, poorer healing, and a longer time to recover from illness.
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