Do You Really Need Protein in Your Cereal?
When it comes to the ultimate diet, the three macros, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, get thrown around a lot, swinging from good to evil in the public eye. The truth of the matter is the body needs all three in varied amounts. While we can get into some serious debate about what those amounts are, it is safest to say that each of us needs distinct amounts of all three macronutrients based on our unique body types.
Fats and carbohydrates tend to bear the brunt of public skepticism due to how the body stores them when too much is consumed on a regular basis. Even though protein seems to be treated with more acceptance, the amount we need each day is still a hot topic in the world of health and nutrition. We are going to explore what’s best for the body and see if we really need protein in our breakfast cereal, or can we simply rely on our typical daily food to give us what we need?
According to the National Institute of Health, the dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight or 0.8 grams of protein for every kilo. This means a 150 pound human should consume 54 grams of protein a day. Seems simple enough, right?
Not quite. Just like fats and carbs, the ideal protein intake varies from person to person. The DRI is the recommended daily allowance, and these numbers are released as a minimum intake for basic nutritional requirements. It does not take into account your age, body size or type, specific health needs, or any other unique qualifier in your life. The only specific detail it considers is movement, and this particular recommendation is for people who are sedentary. So how do you determine your protein level if you're a small female, older male, athlete, or college student?
Protein requirements are directly related to the muscle mass you have and the muscle mass you want. Why? Because protein is the building block of all muscles from your heart to your biceps. That is why it is crucial to give your body what it needs in order to build, repair, and protect the muscles you have and the ones you are creating. This is why high protein snacks, shakes, and meals have dominated the food industry and the gym. The more active you are, the more muscle you have, and the more muscle you’re trying to gain, the more protein your body needs.
Just keep in mind it is always relative to how many calories you need to be consuming as well, so if you up your protein, curb one of the other macros. If weight loss is a goal, curb your fat intake. Always consider the source of your protein in order to avoid unhealthy choices and eating more fat than your body can burn. All plant-based proteins are not created equal, and many are incredibly high in fat and therefore calories, i.e. nuts.
A diet high in lean, healthy protein will help you maintain your lean muscles while reducing your calories so that your body burns more fat and eats less muscle. This is why it is important to be clear on your goals. Are you eating to lose fat? Are you wanting to build muscle and strength? Is food simply about maintaining? Your goals directly impact the balance of macronutrients that is best for your body.
Try to keep your protein around 10-35% of your daily caloric intake. You can use the recommended daily amount if you live a sedentary life; however, if you are more on the active side, it is important to up your protein intake. This will help your body sustain you through busy days, lifting groceries, cleaning house, going to the gym, and any other use of your muscles.
Upping your protein is about more than just muscles. It also helps curb hunger by keeping you satiated for longer, it helps reduce those pesky cravings, and unlike carbs and fats, it is rarely stored as fat. Your body likes to use protein! For increased fat loss, you can choose lean, preferably plant-based proteins as 30-40% of your total diet. However, as with all diet changes, be sure to check with your doctor first. Eating too much protein is rarely risky unless you have pre-existing kidney issues. Remember you need the other primary macronutrients in your diet as well, and this will help maintain a more balanced diet.
So how do you determine the amount of protein your body needs?
You want to consider your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and nutrition goals. Within the 15-35% spectrum, you can choose where to to be based on your answers. The older you are the more protein you need because your body is trying to maintain muscle mass. The more active you are and the larger you are, causes the levels to also swing to higher levels. The younger you are, less active, or smaller physique leads to lower levels of protein within this spectrum. You’ll find your happy medium through trial and error by observing how you feel and how well your body repairs damaged tissue and maintains and builds muscle.
If you do need to up your protein levels, be wary of the carbohydrates and fats that come along with it. Opt for high quality protein snacks, increase plant-based proteins, and even organic protein supplements. Always aim for a balanced diet with protein being a third to half of your plate, while carbs and fats make up the other two thirds or half. Sometimes it can get tricky to get that much protein into your diet, so be sure to add in vegetarian protein snacks and gluten free protein snacks when and where you can. If you leave protein till dinner, it will make for a very imbalanced meal, so it’s best to start early.
That means that yes, you do need protein in your cereal!
Check out some tasty plant based crunchies.