Will the Myths About Protein Ever Stop?
OK, this thing might be getting out of hand. Just how ‘trendy’ can a macronutrient get?
The prepared foods section of our local grocery market prepares a fresh stir fry made from ingredients of your choice. After you choose from the usual suspects of stir fry fixin’s, you have the option to pick a ‘protein’, which is either chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu.
Protein is Just One of Three Macronutrients You Need
As anyone who’s trying to manage their weight knows, protein, together with fats and carbohydrates, is one of the three main macronutrients that our bodies need in the right balance from the foods we eat.
In a balanced diet, your daily calorie intake should come from the following proportions of macronutrients:
- 25% – 35% from fats
- 40% – 50% from carbs
- 25% – 35% from protein
Each macronutrient plays its own very important role in the health of your body.
- Carbohydrates’ main role is to give your body energy. Simple carbs, like sugar, are quickly converted by your body into energy. Complex carbs, like beans, are broken down more slowly.
- Fats are probably the most versatile macronutrient, doing everything from storing energy for a rainy day to helping to reduce inflammation. There are two main types of fats, saturated and unsaturated. A healthy body produces all the saturated fats it needs, but it must get its required unsaturated fats from the foods you eat.
- Proteins are the building blocks of the cells in your body. Healthy bones, teeth, hair, skin and muscles all rely on protein to keep them that way. There are literally thousands of different proteins, each with its own function.
Back to the ‘Protein’ in the Stir Fry
The question is, if we need to get each of the three macronutrients in our diet every day, why doesn’t the market offer your choice of ‘fats’ or ‘carbohydrates’ in the stir fry?
While the full answer can get a little complex, the reason is that protein is our favourite macronutrient. Its role in building muscle combined with the idea that we can eat lots of it without getting ‘fat’ means it doesn’t suffer the same bad reputation that carbs and fats have. Protein is cool – so it’s “pick your protein” and not “pick your fats or carbs”.
But protein’s popularity contributes to a number of myths around protein that can be misleading about its benefits. And the fact that meats are offered for three out of the four ‘proteins’ in the stir fry is just one of them.
1. Only Meats will Give You Enough Protein
This myth results from the fact that meat proteins are complete. The building blocks of protein are amino acids. Your body needs all of the 20 different amino acids in protein. Meat protein is ‘complete’ because bit it has all 20 amino acids. But that doesn’t mean that you need meat to get all the protein you need. Other sources of protein, like legumes, contain some amino acids. When you eat other protein sources in the right combination, like rice and beans, you will get all 20 amino acids just like if you ate meat.
2. Protein Doesn’t Add Fat to Your Body
If protein is our favourite macronutrient, fat is the most despised – even though we need to eat fat to live. That shunning of fat can mean we don’t get enough of it, and an excess of protein instead. When that happens, your body can convert the extra protein into glucose, a simple carbohydrate, which gets stored as fat.
3. You Need a High-Protein Diet to Lose Weight
There are lots of reasons for this one. While it’s true that you burn more calories to break down the proteins in your diet, a calorie is still a calorie. Protein calories don’t magically become muscle or simply disappear. In fact, a high-protein diet can cause weight gain when we get too much of that protein from meats that contain saturated fats and when we don’t get enough of the other macronutrients.
Healthy, sustained weight loss can only come from a balanced diet. When we put our diets out of balance by favouring one macronutrient over another, our bodies can react in ways that might actually cause weight gain. The nutrition specialist at your local Herbal One Centre can help you learn more about the right ways to manage your weight.