Think you’re low on protein? Here's how to get enough in your diet

In news that probably surprises no one – protein in pretty important!

Yep, we all need plenty of this essential macronutrient to keep our bodies ticking along. But how much protein do we actually need? And how do we make sure we’re getting enough?

 What is a protein anyway? 

Proteins are basically the building blocks of life, vital to all sorts of metabolic processes including growth and repair of tissues, transporting stuff around our bodies, hormone production and breaking down other nutrients. Your body can also use proteins as an energy source (though carbs are its favourite). 

They’re made from a simpler molecule called an amino acid. There are 20 amino acids in total, which combine in different ways to make a truly staggering range of proteins. Neat huh?!

How much protein do I need? 

Your required protein intake will vary according to your age, gender and health needs. In general, according to the Aussie Government: 

  • Adult men should be eating around .84 grams of protein per kilo of body weight each day. So, if you’re 80kg, you should be eating around 67 grams per day.
  • Adult women should look to get around .75 grams of protein per kilo of body weight each day. So, if you’re 65kg, you should be eating around 49 grams per day.

Another way to think about it is protein should make up around 15 to 25% of your daily energy intake, so a little under a quarter of a plate of food at each meal. 

To help make this a bit more practical The Healthy Food Guide recommends consuming 2-3 serves per day of the following: 

  • 65 –100g cooked lean meat, chicken, fish (size of your palm)
  • 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans (size of your fist)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30g nuts, seeds, peanut paste or tahini 
  • 170g tofu / tempeh

How do I make sure I’m getting enough? 

Luckily, getting your daily required protein is pretty easy if you’re eating a balanced, wholefood diet. 

You should pay particularly close attention to your and your family’s protein intake during times of growth and repair (hello kids and teenagers!), during illness or injury, post-surgery, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, or (if you’re a lady) when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Protein-rich foods include red meat, poultry and fish, eggs, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, as well as dairy and soy products.

Too much of a good thing?

While protein deficiency can cause major issues, you can also have too much of a good thing! Very high protein diets are not really recommended, unless you’re an elite athlete. And even then should be done under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner like an Accredited Practising Dietitian. 

If you’re looking to get in better shape and/or build muscle, you’ll get much better results (and added health benefits!) through regular exercise and sticking to a balanced diet with plenty of complex carbs and healthy fats alongside that protein.