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Protein: it’s place in your diet

What is protein, why do we need it and how to include it in your diet

What is it?

Simply put proteins are the building blocks of life, the body uses them to repair and maintain itself and is mainly used by the body to repair cells and make new ones.

Protein is also important for growth during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy. When protein is digested, amino acids are left and the body needs a number of amino acids to break down food. Proteins also belong to the nutrient group of macronutrients alongside Carbohydrates and Fats.

Place in the diet

If you are following the eat well guide, protein and meats are recommended to account for 12% of your daily intake with the remaining percentages consisting of 40% fruit and veg, 38% carbs, 8% dairy and 1% oils and spreads.

An example mealtime could consist of roughly ¼ plate carbs, ¼ protein and ½ fruit/veg. Ideally, protein should be a part of each meal consumed.


The NHS reference intakes suggest that women should aim to consume 45g of protein a day and that males should aim to consume 55g of protein a day. The department of health advises us that we shouldn’t consume more than twice the recommended daily intake. These reference intakes however are a general guideline and will vary between individuals.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggest intakes as the following

Activity Type Grams of Protein per KG of bodyweight

Sedentary Adult                                    0.8g/kg

Recreational Adult Exerciser           0.8-1.5g/kg   

Adult Endurance Athlete                   1.2-1.6g/kg

Growing Teenage Athlete                 1.5-2.0g/kg

Adult Building Mass                            1.5-1.7g/kg

Estimated upper limits (Adults)     2.0g.kg

It’s important to note that there are varying amounts and it may take time to find what works best for you as an individual depending on what your goals are. When looking to gain weight, taking more protein than usual can help to build muscle, whereas when losing weight sometimes we may opt for more protein high foods as protein can leave us feeling fuller for longer, protein also provides 4 calories per gram (carbohydrates also provide 4 calories per gram) whereas fats contain 9 calories per gram.

Protein Shakes

Ultimately these shakes can provide protein, however, it may be easier and cheaper to simply add more protein sources to your diet as these would provide the same benefits and potentially save you money. If this isn’t possible and you do opt for shakes, check the label for sugar and fat content as these powders can be made up of a range of macronutrients and may not be just purely protein. Please also note that using them as a meal replacement may seem like a quick fix, you wouldn’t necessarily be getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals that you would from a healthy balanced meal.

Protein-Rich Foods

  • Red meat such as beef, lamb or pork
  • White meat such as chicken or turkey
  • Pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, garden peas, beans
  • Quinoa
  • Tofu, Seitan
  • Nuts and seeds, especially chia seeds
  • Eggs, milk, yoghurt, and cottage cheese
  • Fish
  • Oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Brown and wild rice
  • Vegetables – asparagus, avocado, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, artichokes, kale, spinach, sweetcorn

The information and advice within this blog are not intended to replace any medical advice, with all our clients we seek to address their individual needs and circumstances – this includes any adaptations required for long- or short-term health conditions and medications. Please seek medical advice if you have any health conditions before considering a lifestyle change.

For more information on how we can support you with our FREE weight management courses, head over to our Lose Weight page HERE.


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