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The Punch of Protein

Protein is key to a healthy nutrition program.  Proteins form the body’s main structural elements and are in every cell and tissue.  Our body uses proteins to build and repair, growth, strength of bones, function and building muscles, hair growth and regeneration, connective tissues within our bodies, skin, internal organs, and our blood.  Dietary sources of protein include meats, eggs, grains, legumes, and dairy products such as milk and cheese.  Animal sources of proteins have the complete range of all 20 amino acids.  Vegetable sources are deficient in amino acids and their proteins are incomplete molecules.  As an example, most legumes typically lack four, including the amino acid methionine, while grains lack two, three, or four, including the essential amino acid lysine.  Another excellent source of protein is tofu and can be used easily in recipes as it absorbs the taste and flavor of other ingredients.

All proteins are created equal, right?  Wrong!  Different proteins have different levels of bioavailability.  Bioavailability is our body’s ability to absorb the protein contained in the food we are eating.  It is determined by the quality of the protein contained in the food.  As an example, peanuts have a low bioavailability yet chicken, fish, beef, and egg whites have a very high bioavailability.

As a general guideline, the average woman needs to consume approximately 45-50 grams of protein per day; men need to consume approximately 55 to 60 grams per day to avoid protein deficiency.  Men’s bodies generally have more muscle mass than that of women, thus the difference in protein intake.

For weight loss surgery post-ops that have a malabsorptive procedure, the protein consumption is higher to take into consider the malabsorption component from the surgery.  Generally, for post-ops at their goal weight, an average protein consumption per day for women is 60 to 75 grams; for men is 65 to 80 grams.  Obviously, these numbers are estimates and are used for general reference.  Consult with your physician or bariatric surgeon for your dietary recommendations, and protocol.

Another general rule of thumb to determine how much protein you need is to divide your weight by 2.  If you weigh 150 pounds, a healthy intake of protein would be 75 grams.  The exception is if you weigh over 250 pounds, use 125 grams as your goal for protein take per day.  Again, follow your physician or registered dietician’s recommendation for your specific needs.

How much protein needed in a person’s daily diet is determined in large part by overall energy intake as well as by your body’s need for protein and essential amino acids.  Physical activity and exertion as well as enhanced muscular mass increase your need for protein.  Requirements for protein are also increased during pregnancy, breast-feeding, or when the body needs to recover from a sickness, trauma, or prior to surgery to enhance your body’s healing.

Protein packs a punch of healthy nutrition to your body.  Proteins contain 4 calories per gram so it is an excellent, calorically low-cost source of nutrition to your body.  Dense protein foods provide a longer sense of satiety to your body.  Weight loss surgery results in some deficiencies – one of which is protein.  Protein overall is a great partner to enhance weight loss for anyone wanting to shed pounds.

Before I lost weight, I could have cared less about protein.  If protein happened to be contained somewhere in the specialty hamburger with cheese, fat laden sauce, and three slices of bread, then that was okay.  Eating protein wasn’t something I sought for my nutritional requirements.  Now that I understand the important functions my body needs from protein, I consider it a partner in losing weight and maintaining my weight.  Include protein in your healthy nutrition program.  Your body and weight loss program will thank you.

All the best,


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