Eating protein the right way can help support muscle growth, as well as making recovery after a tough session easier. If you’re skimping on protein, it can be hard for your body to get the fuel it needs to maintain lean muscle. It’s really easy to be confused about how and when to eat protein, as there are so many different opinions floating around! These are some of the common mistakes people make when it comes to getting their protein intake.
Protein mistakes you may be making are:
1) You are too focused on only eating complete proteins
Complete protein sources have all the essential amino acids that your body needs, but isn’t able to produce on its own. Unlike non-essential amino acids (which your body can create on its own), essential amino acids come from your food. Your body needs essential amino acids to do a bunch of things, like digesting your food, building tissue and providing energy.
Complete proteins are often high on the priority list for people looking to lose weight or grow muscle, because essential amino acids help to do this. A common mistake many people make is thinking they should only be eating complete proteins. Some examples include meat (red and white), fish, dairy foods, eggs and soy. So don't think you need to overdo it on these people!
If you’re eating a well-rounded diet (for example, foods from all of the main food groups), generally you should be able to get enough of these essential amino acids to fuel your body. Balance between complete and incomplete protein is important for optimal health. Eating a variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes and grains, can provide you with enough amino acids.
2) You're packing in too much protein after a workout
As with most foods, too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing! Sure, drinking a protein shake after a workout might be okay, as long as you are factoring it into your overall eating plan. Often, foods that are high in protein can also be high in saturated fats (meat is a great example). The extra fat content with your protein could potentially contribute to weight gain.
Instead of overloading once your workout is finished, try to include protein as part of your overall healthy eating plan. You don’t need to drink a mountain of protein shakes or eat a high-protein diet for your body to repair itself. A balanced diet should provide the nutrients needed for your body to be able to build muscle and burn fat. Don’t be fooled into thinking that protein shakes are a MUST post workout - a lot of people feel like they have to have these in order to see results.
3) You don’t eat protein with each meal
If you eat small portions of protein throughout the day (for example, at each of your main meals), your body has enough time to break it down for absorption. Protein also tends to keep you feeling fuller and keeps your blood sugar level consistent. That can help reduce sugar cravings, as well as keeping you fuelled for everything the day throws at you. It’s super easy to add a variety of proteins into each meal - and not just chicken breasts! Try mix it up with things such as greek yoghurt in your muesli.
4) You use shakes or bars as your main protein source
Unfortunately, not all protein is equal. While making a protein shake or snacking on a protein bar is convenient, especially if you’re on the go, many varieties have added nasties. Some protein bars can be really high in sugar and preservatives.
For a quick boost of protein, snack on nuts, seeds or hard boiled eggs instead. These are just as quick and convenient as protein bars and you can take them on the go with you. Real food protein sources provide other nutrients for your body as well. When you’re getting lunch ready to take with you each day, pack a simple protein-rich snack as well.
Good luck and eat well!