Protein is the basic building block of a healthy diet. Protein in the body helps build muscles, tendons, skin, enzymes, hormones, bones and other various protein structures in the body. Protein also plays a role in keeping a strong immune system and can be a source of energy by converting amino acids to glucose. Protein is primarily used by the body to build and repair tissues. Protein is filling, so eating a protein rich meal or snack will help with satiety.

Basic over view of protein – Structurally, protein is made up of a chain of different amino acids. Our body has 20 different amino acids to choose from. Humans can produce 11 of the 20 amino acid known as nonessential amino acids (see list below). The remaining amino acids must be supplied from the diet because the body does not make them; these are called essential amino acids.

Essential: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine

Nonessential: alanine, arginine, asparagines, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, tyrosine

Conditionally Essential: Normally made in the body but can be essential depending on certain circumstances for example at certain life stages or if you are genetically unable to make a certain amino acid. Arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, tyrosine

Complete vs. non-complete proteins, what is the difference? The quality of protein differs in plants and animals. Animal protein generally contains all the nine essential amino acids in approximately the right proportions that the body needs. These are called complete proteins. Some examples of complete protein include: fish, chicken, pork, beef, dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt). Plant proteins are not considered complete proteins. They lack one or more essential amino acids and are called incomplete proteins. There are a few plant sources such as quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed and amaranth that have been rated as complete proteins. To make a complete protein, you can combine two incomplete proteins to consume all nine essential amino acids. It’s not necessary to eat complementary proteins together with each meal in an effort to make complete protein. By eating a variety of plant foods with “incomplete proteins” throughout the day, we can easily get enough “complete protein.”

How much protein do we need for good health? If you are unable to build or retain muscle, that’s probably because you aren’t getting enough protein; so instead your body will take it from your muscle tissue. Protein requirements vary based on age, gender, size, body fat percentage and activity levels. The following are general guidelines for men and women over the age of 19:

Average adult: 0.8 g protein/kg body weight (or 0.37 g protein/ pound) per day. For example: 130 pound lady will need at least 48 grams protein / day.
Strength training athletes: ~ 1.4 to 2.0 g protein/kg body weight (or 0.63g to 0.9g/ pound) per day. For example, 130 pound lady will need about 82 to 118 grams protein / day.
Endurance athletes: ~ 1.2 to 1.4 g protein/ kg body weight (or 0.54 g/pound) per day. For example, 130 pound lady will need about 70 grams/ protein/ day.

Keep in mind, if you eat too much protein, your body will store the excess protein as fat.

Is it important to consume protein after a workout? Depends on your training. If you are maximizing your workouts and hitting it hard, such as training for a marathon or taking a metabolic conditioning class 3 to 4 times a week, it will be important to consume both protein and carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes post workout. This will definitely help to build and repair muscles. However, if you just went for a leisure walk/jog for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week, you will be fine eating a balanced diet an hour or two after your workout.

No doubt about it, protein is good for you — and can even help you shed those unwanted pounds. But it’s important to eat the right amount and the right kind of protein to get the lifelong weight-loss results you want. Variety is the key to acquiring all of the essential amino acids that the body needs. Below are some clean, whole food recipes that include this variety.
Featured Recipe – Spicy Turkey Sausage Three Bean Chili

Lisa’s Spicy Turkey Sausage Three Bean Chili
Servings: 5 adult sized servings/Serving size: 2 cups
Weight Watcher pts: 8/New Points Plus:9
Calories: 398/Protein: 24 g/Fat: 6 g /Carbs: 64 g /Fiber: 19.5 g
1 Tbspn canola oil
1 lb spicey turkey sausage, such as Jennie-O spicy turkey sausage
1 small white onion finely diced ~1 cup
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can diced tomato, low sodium
1 14.5 ounce can tomato sauce
Chili spice: I like to make my own
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • ¼ tsp ground red pepper (cayenne powder)
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1, 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1, 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1, 15 ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup Original Tabasco Sauce
1. In a large sauce pan, heat canola oil over medium – high heat. Add onions, sautee for about 5 minutes or so until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic, sautee for another two minutes or so.
2. Add turkey sauge that is removed from the casings. Using a wooden spoon to break it up into small crumbly pieces. Cook stirring occasionally about 5 minutes or long or until no longer pink. Add the spices, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and beans. Cover the sauce pan, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in tabasco sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Nutritional Analysis for 2 cups of chili:
Calories: 398/ protein: 24 g/ total carbs: 64 g/ dietary fiber: 19.5 g/ sugars: 10 g/total fat: 6 g/ saturated fat: 1 g/ polyunsaturated fat: 1 g/ monounsaturated fat: 1 g/cholesterol: 14 mg/ sodium: 268 mg
% Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet for adults:
folate: 83%/manganese: 61%/magnesium: 36%/ vitamin C: 53%/magnesium: 36%/ B1: 35%/copper: 35%/ B6: 29%/ vitamin K: 30% vitamin A: 30%/ zinc: 17%/ B3: 14%/ B2: 13%/ calcium: 11%/chromium: 9%/selenium: 9%/pantothenic acid: 6%/ biotin: 1%