This is the second part of a Q&A with Dr. Jared Dickinson on protein. Click here to check out part one!
8. When should Americans consume protein?
As noted earlier, Americans should consume protein throughout the day in spaced out intervals, for instance, at each meal. According to the USDA, Americans eat the majority of protein at dinner, rather than spreading protein intake throughout the day. Try to at least eat 3 meals a day consisting of 25-30 grams of protein, with 3-4 hours between meals.
9. How does distributing protein intake influence fitness and exercise?
Distributing protein greatly influences fitness and exercise. Think of your muscles as sponges. After working out, your muscles need to repair themselves, but are not ready to soak up protein immediately after working out. If you are doing moderate exercise, you could likely eat 25-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes after you exercise. However, if you are doing more intense exercise, it may be best to wait about 30 minutes before consuming 25-30 grams of protein to allow your muscles to recover from the exercise.
10. What foods are good sources of protein?
Some protein rich foods include meats, eggs, dairy, nuts, and soy-based products. Four-six ounces of lean beef, chicken or fish will deliver 25-30 grams of protein. Eggs provide 6 grams of protein, 3 grams from the yolk and 3 grams from the whites. Dairy offers a wide range amount of protein. One cup of yogurt has 8-10 grams of protein, while Greek yogurt has double the amount. One ounce of cheese has 6-10 grams of protein and a cup of milk offers 8 grams of protein. For plant sources, ½ cup of soy beans delivers 14 grams of protein, while other beans (black, pinto, kidney, chickpea, etc.) offer 7-13 grams. One ounce of nuts, such as almonds, provide 6 grams of protein. Grains are another great source of protein that most people do not realize. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein. One cup of rolled oats delivers 10 grams of protein. Pasta (whole wheat and regular) provides between 6-10 grams of protein per cup.
11. What is the difference between complete and incomplete proteins?
There are 20 different amino acids used by the body, 8 of which are essential amino acids that must be obtained from consuming foods because our bodies cannot make those amino acids. Generally, protein sources which contain all the essential amino acids in the right amounts are labeled as “complete” while protein sources that do not contain all essential amino acids are labeled as “incomplete”. You do not need to only ingest complete protein since incomplete proteins can be paired to achieve a meal containing all the essential amino acids in the right amounts. You may not need to pair incomplete proteins at every meal in order to get all the essential amino acids. Consuming a variety of protein sources throughout the day would likely provide your body with essential amino acids.
12. Is there a specific amino acid that can help build lean muscle?
The amino acid leucine is a trigger for muscle health. Animal sources generally contain more leucine than non-animal sources but you can still meet your needs on a plant-based diet if you focus on quantity. You simply might have to eat more grams of plant-based protein to get the same amount of leucine.
13. How does protein and exercise mix?
They go together hand in hand. Exercise and protein are both extremely important for health, and each can elicit independent benefits. However, the combination of proper protein consumption and routine exercise is a powerful strategy for promoting health and longevity. In fact, combining the two may be very important for older adults and persons suffering from clinical conditions that promote the loss of body weight and lean tissue.
14. What’s the one thing people get wrong about protein?
I would say that perhaps the one thing many Americans may get wrong about protein is that proper and strategic consumption of protein is only required for athletes and body builders. I think more and more information is demonstrating the importance of proper protein consumption for general health and well-being, as well as the importance of protein for preserving and/or restoring health in our older population and in persons suffering from clinical diseases.