Protein powders should be used to provide nutrients that your food diet does not provide. If you consume adequate amounts of protein through your diet, protein powders may not be necessary. Scenarios when protein powders are useful are when access to quality protein is limited, such as during travel, or recovery from heavy exercise is a priority and food sources of protein are limited.
High protein diets are growing in popularity but are often taken to extreme. A protein rich diet is important, including regular feeding of protein throughout the day, maybe in 4-6 meals. This is especially important in research currently emerging in ageing populations. As ever, it is important to ensure that increased protein does not replace other vital nutrients in the diet. In summary, it is a protein rich diet that is required, NOT a high protein diet per se. Protein itself does not remain a magic bullet on its own.
One method is to look at the biological availability of a protein, i.e. the amount of protein absorbed and used from a protein source. Proteins from certain foods are worth more than the same amount from other foods. All proteins are ranked in terms of their biological value. Eggs, cows milk, fish, chicken and beef have the highest biological value.
Amino acidsare the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 different amino acids but only 8 of these are essential. These amino acids have to be ingested through food every day. Amino acids are involved in nearly every bodily function.
Animal sources of protein are complete proteins. They contain all essential amino acids. Animal sources of protein are generally considered high fat so it’s best to choose lean sources such as fish, turkey and chicken the majority of the time. On the other hand, plant sources of protein are incomplete proteins. They tend to be missing one of more essential amino acid. To achieve a balanced amino acid intake, a variety of sources of plant proteins need to be eaten throughout each day. Plant proteins have the benefit of being high in fibre and low in fat.
Both meats are an excellent source of high quality protein. Chicken contains almost double the amount of protein than turkey but the latter contains less fat.
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein available. They are also relatively cheap, versatile and a convenient source of protein. It wasn’t that long ago that we were told to avoid eating too many eggs because they contain cholesterol. As we start to understand the role of nutrition in heart disease, it has become clear that there is no need to restrict the number of eggs in your diet, with the assumption you eat a healthy, balance diet.
Goat milk may have an advantage in that the proteins it contains form a softer curd, which make them more easily digested compared to cow milk. Due to the protein structure of goats milk, some individuals better tolerate it. Apart from these two factors, there is little difference in the total protein content of each milk source.
In terms of protein intake, there is very little difference between skimmed, semi- and full-fat milk. Your choice of milk should instead come down to taste and fat content.
Macronutrient energy values vary between the three macronutrients in the diet, carbohydrate, fat and protein. Fat is the most energy dense, providing 9 kcal for every gram consumed. This compares to 4 kcal for every gram consumed of both carbohydrate and protein.