Getting Enough Protein to Sustain Healthy Muscle?

Now a days you can’t turn on the television without seeing an advertisement for some food claiming to contain enough protein to sustain healthy muscle.  My question to you is. Do you know how much protein you need in your diet to promote and sustain healthy muscle?  If you don’t know the answer, then read on because I’m going to educate you on the importance of protein in your diet and how much you need for optimal health.

Protein is a necessary part of every living cell in your body. Next to water, protein comprises the greatest portion of your body weight. Protein substances make up your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, and many vital body fluids. It is essential for growth, repair, and healing of your bones, tissues, and cells. So, you see the proper amount of protein in your diet is vital for your health and well being.

Protein is comprised of building blocks called amino acids. There are approximately twenty eight commonly know amino acids that your body uses to create all the various combinations of proteins needed for survival. These commonly known amino acids are further classified as essential and nonessential amino acids. Nonessential amino acids can be produced in your body, while essential amino acids cannot be produced in your body and must be obtained from the foods you eat.

The sources of protein in your diet are classified as complete or incomplete. Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids and are mostly from animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Incomplete proteins lack one or more essential amino acids that your body cannot make itself. Incomplete protein usually come from plant based sources such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. you must eat incomplete sources of protein in a combination that contains all the essential amino acids in order for your body to use them.

As I just mentioned, you must get your essential amino acids from your diet because body cannot make them itself. Some of the best animal sources are fish, poultry, lean cuts of meat, and low-fat dairy products. Some of the best vegetable sources are beans, nuts, and whole grains.  But, exactly how much you ask?

The goal for protein intake should be to optimize healthy muscle mass and it takes at least 21 grams each meal to accomplish this. That’s approximately 3 eggs, or a piece of fish or poultry or meat about the size and thickness of a regular deck of playing cards. Getting 21 grams of protein in a meal is the threshold where your body knows it has enough protein to start muscle building and repair. Anything less then 21 grams and your body uses it for other vital bodily functions.

Another important consideration in the amount of protein you need is age.  As you age your body becomes less efficient at processing protein. If you don’t get the proper amount in your diet your body starts to break-down lean muscle tissue in order get the amino acids it needs to keep your body functioning. When this happens you accelerate the natural process of muscle loss associated with age called sacopenia and this is very detrimental to your overall health and well being.

As you age you should aim to consume enough protein to build and sustain lean muscle mass. Studies show that consuming 25 to 30 grams of high quality protein at each meal is necessary for maximal muscle growth, repair and maintenance.