You are unlikely to be deficient in protein if you include
dairy-based products and/or eggs in your diet both frequently
and in sufficient quantities. If you are an athlete you may
require up to 150% more protein than the amount recommended
for non-athletes. However, this increasedquite target is
often met easily as athletes do eat more.
You are at greatest risk of inadequate protein intake
if you are growing or consume lower quality proteins
(i.e plant proteins). Plant proteins have lower digestibility,
lower energy content and lower protein quality than meat proteins
and therefore athletes and non-athletes may have to increase
their protein intake to take account of this lower digestibility
of plant proteins.
Ensuring a Balance of Proteins
There are millions of different proteins but all are built
from the same 20 amino acids - the basic building blocks. The
sequence of the amino acids determines the protein and its function.
Our bodies can make amino acids although there are eight amino
acids ("essential amino acids") are body can't make
and must be supplied in our diets.
- Plant foods do not contain all the essential amino acids
needed by humans - for this reason plant proteins are often
described as providing lower protein quality than animal proteins.
- Animal proteins such as meat and fish have all the essential
amino acids and therefore are described as high quality proteins.
It is therefore important to eat a range of plant protein sources
to obtain the different amino acids to ensure your body has
all its requirements.
|For example, cereals (bread, rice
and pasta) are low in an essential amino acid called lysine
whilst legumes (beans) are low in a another amino acid but
by combining them (beans on toast, tortilla and beans) the
mixture can provide a mixture of amino acids similar to
that of a complete protein found in animal products.
It was once thought that a vegetarian should combine plant
proteins in each meal it is now agreed that amino acids needs
to be balanced over a period of days rather than hours.
Athletes in Intense Training
If you wish to maximise your recovery then your post exercise
meal should include mainly carbohydrate but also some
protein. This is because some amino acids (though not all) boost
the levels of insulin in the blood resulting in quicker clearance
of the blood glucose (from the carbohydrate intake) and allowing
a faster rate of muscle glycogen recovery.
- Peanut butter
- Soyabean products e.g. tofu
- Fish (an option if you eat fish as a vegetarian)