Macros Counting Continued:: Protein

 Over the next 3 days I will be breaking down the top 3 essential nutrients that make up your macro nutrients. I'll start with protein.

The body needs protein! When you hear the words 'protein is the building block of life.' It's true! I didn't realize until today that every cell in the human body has protein in it. We need protein to help our bodies repair cells and make new ones. Protein foods are broken down into parts called amino acids during digestion. The human body needs a number of amino acids in large enough amounts to maintain good health. (Medline Plus)

Protein is all your meats, or anything that creates a complete amino acid chain. Complete protein (or whole protein) is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids. Check out Nate Morrow's post on Built Lean for an AMAZING and complete (LOL, I'm funny) medically reviewed article on all things protein:
I'll touch on some of the basics he talked about to help you better understand what counts as a complete protein when counting your macros.

Back to basics "One of the three macro nutrients your body needs to function properly (along with fats and carbohydrates), proteins are primarily important for tissue growth and repair, but also necessary for digestion, metabolism, and the production of antibodies to fight infection. Comprising 10% of your brain and 20% of your heart, liver, and skeletal muscles, protein is obviously key to maintaining a strong, healthy body."

There are two different types of protein, complete protein and non-complete protein. "Your body needs 22 different types of amino acids to function properly. Adults can synthesize 13 of those within the body (known as non-essential amino acids), but the other 9 must be obtained from food (known as essential amino acids). It’s these essential amino acids that derive the classification of protein as either complete or incomplete"

Exert from 'List of Complete vs Incomplete' :

Complete Protein Sources

Complete proteins are those that contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantity – these are typically animal-based proteins, but a few plant sources are also considered complete. A few examples are (* indicates plant-based):

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, whey)
  • Eggs
  • Quinoa*
  • Buckwheat*
  • Hemp and chia seed*
  • Spirulina*

  • So the question about does peanut butter count towards my protein? Well, not necessarily. According to Body Building's Peanut Butter: A Super Sports Food, it's not a protein dense food. Meaning, yes it has protein in it, but in the average serving size you're only getting about 7 grams of protein versus say a few slices of turkey which have 20 grams of protein. You're better off counting peanut butter as a fat source than a protein source. That is, peanuts are low in some of the essential amino acids muscles need for growth and repair.
    Just check out Nate's handy dandy list of incomplete protein sources.

    Incomplete Protein Sources

    Incomplete proteins are those that don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids, or don’t have sufficient quantities of them to meet the body’s needs, and must be supplemented with other proteins. These include:

  • Nuts & seeds
  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Just because they are incomplete doesn’t make them inferior, though, they just need to be combined to provide the right balance of essential aminos. Proteins that, in combination, make a complete amino acid profile are known as complementary proteins. Here are a few tasty examples:

  • Rice and beans
  • Spinach salad with almonds
  • Hummus and whole-grain pitas
  • Whole-grain noodles with peanut sauce

  • Now this is something I didn't know...Complementary proteins don’t necessarily need to be eaten together, but since your body doesn’t store amino acids for later use in protein combining, they should be eaten throughout a day’s meals.
    Basically meaning I can eat rice for lunch and beans at dinner to obtain that complete amino chain to count as a complete protein.

    Nate goes on to talk about Plant protein vs. Animal Protein, I won't touch on that but it's a good read if you are vegan or are interested in incorporating vegan or vegetarian meals into your diet and macro counting.  I do use some plant based protein powders...mostly because it's almost impossible for me to eat as much protein as I need to without breaking my budget. I supplement at least one meal with a shake or protein bar.

    How much protein you should be consuming will be directly related to your goals. Here is the link again to Body Building for the macro nutrient calculator.

    Also something to keep in mind, what servings sizes look like for proteins

    Check out part 1 here on counting your macros
    Part 3: Macros: Fat
    Part 4: Macros: Carbs
    Don't forget to check the Body Building macro nutrient calculator to see how many carbohydrate grams will fit into your goal.

    Come back tomorrow where I'll talk about the recently misunderstood macro nutrient, FAT!



    Sumita Sofat said…
    Simply great. Thanks for the sharing. Love this post.

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