As a result of popular diet trends in recent years, protein has been given a lot of headline space. Whether it's shaking in the gym, high protein yoghurt or 'super' grains that contain a larger percentage of protein, it has become big business in the food and sports nutrition industries.
We enlisted the help of Emma Barraclough, Senior Sports Nutritionist for SiS to try and tackle some of the most common myths around protein to help you understand your needs better and support your riding.
Myth: Protein is only important if you lift weights
We are all continually turning over protein naturally every day. Exercise increases the natural turn over of protein in the body, and the mechanical stress of exercise causes varying levels of muscle damage.
In order to support your lean muscle mass, you need a regular intake of high-quality protein. Your lean muscle mass is important; it is one of the biggest determinants of your resting metabolic rate. If you lose lean muscle mass, then your resting metabolic rate drops. This means that you don’t need as many calories to live on every day, meaning that you will gain weight over time if you do not reduce the amount you are eating in accordance.
So getting enough protein in your diet in regular feeds is key in helping you manage your weight. Supplementing your diet with sports nutrition products such as SiS Whey Protein allows you achieve your protein target easily with high-quality protein that has low levels of both fat and carbohydrate.
Even if you are not lifting weights, regular cycle training will increase your need for protein. This is to help the rebuilding of your muscle mass from any damage that has taken place. If you have done a lot of long sessions you may well end up in a large energy deficit and can end up breaking your lean muscle mass down to make up this deficit. Feeding high quality regularly and immediately after training helps to overcome this.
Myth: Protein helps you lose weight
Eating protein on its own will not help you lose weight. In order to lose weight, you need to be in energy deficit; this means taking in fewer calories than you are expending through your resting metabolic rate and exercise. However, manipulating your protein intake can help support your weight loss efforts.
Protein and carbohydrates have the same amount of calories per gram as each other. However, protein actually uses more calories to digest it than carbohydrate does. Protein also is more satiating, meaning that it fills you up more.
If you are looking to lose weight, balancing your meals with protein and vegetables rather than high GI carbs such as white pasta, rice and bread can help you, particularly for your evening meal when you are more likely to store any extra carbohydrate as fat.
Myth: Men's and women's protein needs are different
Gender can influence your protein requirements, but your activity level will have a much bigger influence.
For active individuals, we generally recommend between 1.2-1.5 grams per kilo of body weight, so women should aim at the lower end of the range, depending on the intensity and volume of their training. We can maximally absorb 20-25g every 3-4 hours. 20g is the equivalent of three eggs or a chicken breast. Often with protein products, this means simply just using one scoop of protein powder versus two or three, depending on the serving size of the product.
Myth: I need to eat meat to get enough protein
Animal protein tends to have a complete amino acid profile. Whilst some plant proteins do not, it is possible to get enough protein from non-meat sources.
This is especially true if you eat dairy foods. Eggs, greek yoghurt, cottage cheese and milk are all relatively high in protein and make great additions to your diet.
If you are trying to go non-dairy as well, this is still possible, you just have to look a bit further. Beans and nuts have a good protein content, although it is usually present alongside more carbohydrate than what you find in meat. Some grains have higher protein contents than others too. Quinoa and teff both have a protein content of around 15%.
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