by Craig Pollard, A Fitter Me

Hello team! I hope the last month has gone well for you.

When last I wrote, our first goal was to change our eating habits and to start eating more often throughout the day – about 5 to 6 meals a day – starting from when you first get up in the morning. Of course, we have to make sure that the size of meal is based on how much activity we will be doing over the next 3 to 4 hours. Second, we want to drink lots of water – between 1 and 2 litres every day (throughout the day, not gulped all at once). Finally, we discussed the need for the proper mix of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats in the foods we eat.

For all of you who started to make some of these changes over the last 30 days, way to go! Next, we get to the fun part… finding food!

As I mentioned above, we all need the proper mix of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats in the foods we eat. This month, we are going to take a closer look at proteins.

As you go through your day, at work, at home or at the gym, the activities we do all result in muscle and other body tissues being broken down and these tissues need to be repaired. That’s where proteins come into play.

Now some science stuff… proteins are large, complex molecules that play a major role in the function, structure and regeneration of our body’s muscles, tissues, and organs. Proteins are made up of smaller things called amino acids and it’s these guys who do the real work.

Unlike carbohydrates or fat the body does not have any way to store proteins. The body is brilliantly designed to process them on the spot and whatever proteins are not needed will be broken down by our bodies and discarded.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of fad diets that say they are “no carb” or “low fat”… well the problem with such diets is that proteins are most effective when combined with carbs or fats because these act like a taxi and help get the proteins to where they are needed most!

Now that we know that the body doesn’t store proteins and we understand that your body needs protein throughout the day to help keep our muscles, tissues and organs healthy, it makes perfect sense that we need to consume proteins all day long. The amount of protein you need will depend on your total daily intake and how active a life you lead.

Protein intake amounts is a widely contested topic and range from 0.36 grams/lb of body weight for people leading relatively inactive lifestyles, to 1.4-1.6 grams/lb of body weight for weight training athletes who are trying to gain muscle mass.

So now we know what proteins do for your body and how they do it. Now you need to know where to find them. Some great sources of protein are: fish, white poultry meat, eggs, pork tenderloin, soy, beans, and dairy products (sparingly as fat can be high). Protein is also found in many vegetables but in smaller amounts compared to other sources.

Of course, proteins are rarely found in food all by themselves. Typically, the foods we eat include a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat, so you need to see whole picture before deciding what the best choice is for you. For example, below, we compare 100 grams (about 3.5 oz.) of steak versus chicken:

Steak Chicken
Calories 227 219
Total Fat 20g 13g
Saturated Fat 9g 3.5g
Carbohydrates 0g 0g
Protein 25g 25g

As you can see, for the same amount of protein, you get a significantly larger quantity of fat, and nearly 3 times the amount of saturate fat, the kind that we don’t want (but we’ll talk more about fats in a future article). My point, however, isn’t that you shouldn’t eat red meat; rather understand that you can get two totally different levels of fats for the same amount of proteins. Of course, our goal is you gain the knowledge you need to choose an overall healthy eating plan that provides the protein you need as well as other nutrients.
So here’s what we’ve learned so far: eat 5-6 times a day (your meal sizes should be based on the amount of activity you’ll be undertaking); drink 1-2 litres of water throughout day; and make sure you’re getting good protein with each meal.

Okay team, get outside and enjoy the spring weather… it took long enough to get here! Remember: Your body is a perfect representation of how you treat it. If you don’t like how you feel and look — something has to change. Next time we’ll discuss carbohydrates.

Craig is a Certified Personal Trainer and is certified in Nutrition for Sport and Performance. Craig operates AFitter.Me, a small, independent gym in Kemptville and works with iNSiDE Out STUDiO barre for Nutrition.