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For most people, a daily dose of around 0.8-1g of protein per 1kg of body weight is recommended. For weightlifters and strength athletes, 1.4 – 2g of protein per kg of body weight is recommended per day, with a recommendation of 1.2-1.6g of protein per kg of body weight per day for endurance athletes. After exercise, protein is particularly important since muscles need it to recover and grow. A portion of protein (15-25g) is recommended within 30 minutes of exercise, when your muscles are particularly receptive to protein synthesis.
For most of us, our daily protein requirements are easily achieved by a healthy, balanced diet. The Department of Health advises adults to avoid consuming more than twice the recommended daily intake of protein (55g for the average man and 50g for the average woman). This is because, in the long term, consuming too much protein might lead to health issues such as an increased risk of osteoporosis and a worsening of an existing kidney problem. However, research in this area is mixed and it is likely that other factors may influence outcome, such as whether the protein is of animal or vegetable origin and how balanced the diet is in terms of vitamins and minerals.
One of the main issues with our Western diet is that our breakfasts and lunches are often low in protein but high in carbohydrates, with a protein-packed evening meal. It is better to spread your protein intake throughout the day. Try our suggestions for high-protein breakfasts, high-protein lunches and high-protein dinners.
You can get protein from both plant and animal sources – here are some of the best food sources of protein.
We love to cook with them but how much protein is in an egg? One medium egg has around 6g of protein in an easily digestible form. A healthy omelette is a good way to start the day and is a good recovery snack, too.
Try our healthy egg recipes and read about the health benefits of eggs.
Dairy foods are packed with protein and contain bone-building calcium, too. Chocolate milk is the age-old recovery food after exercise, since it contains energy-replenishing carbohydrates and a blend of both slow- and fast-release whey and casein proteins. You can get the same recovery-boosting effects from a milk-based fruit smoothie, such as this cranberry & raspberry smoothie recipe.
Read more about the best calcium-rich foods.
A combination of casein and whey protein, yogurt is a great protein-rich food. Since some of the lactose is removed, it may be a useful option if you are lactose intolerant, but check with your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
Try making your own healthy bio yogurt.
Fish and seafood are good sources of protein and are typically low in fat. While slightly higher in fat than other varieties, salmon packs in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce joint stiffness and inflammation.
Try our favourite healthy fish recipes and read more about the health benefits of salmon.
Opt for lean protein from white meat poultry such as chicken and turkey.
Try our healthy chicken recipes and healthy chicken breast recipes.
If you’re dairy intolerant, eating soya protein foods such as fortified tofu and soya-based drinks will help post-recovery, plus they can help to lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Read more about the health benefits of tofu and the health benefits of soya.
Nuts and seeds are a practical protein choice if you’re on the move. Around 50 pistachio nuts provides 6g of protein, plus sodium and potassium, the electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise. This clementine & honey couscous recipe with pistachios makes for a great breakfast or speedy snack.
Read more about the health benefits of nuts.
Meat supplies branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are key in supporting muscle recovery. Leucine, in particular, makes up one third of muscle protein and helps to stimulate repair after exercise. Pork is one of the richest sources of leucine and therefore a great addition to a post-exercise meal or snack. Eggs, chicken and lean beef also provide good amounts of leucine.
Try our healthy pork recipes.
Beans and pulses are great, cheap protein sources. They’re also a useful plant source of iron and and are rich in fibre.
Try our favourite lentil and chickpea recipes.
Both tempeh and tofu are made from soy beans, however, tempeh requires the additional step of fermentation, providing it with an extra depth of flavour. Tempeh also offers a higher protein and fibre content, while tofu is slightly lower in fat and calories.
Discover our favourite tofu and tempeh recipes.
Protein can help you shed those unwanted pounds — and keep your belly full. But it’s important to eat the right amount and the right kind of protein to get its health benefits.
Seafood is an excellent source of protein because it’s usually low in fat. Fish such as salmon is a little higher in fat, but it is the heart-healthy kind: it has omega-3 fatty acids.
Stick to poultry for excellent, lean protein. Dark meat is a little higher in fat. The skin is loaded with saturated fat, so remove skin before eating.
Not only are dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt excellent sources of protein, but they also contain valuable calcium, and many are fortified with vitamin D. Choose skim or low-fat dairy to keep bones and teeth strong and help prevent osteoporosis.
Eggs are one of the least expensive forms of protein. The American Heart Association says normal healthy adults can safely enjoy an egg a day.
One-half cup of beans contains as much plant-based protein as an ounce of broiled steak. Plus, these nutritious nuggets are inexpensive and loaded with fiber to keep you feeling full for hours.
This versatile white meat is 31% leaner than it was 20 years ago.
Fifty grams of soy protein daily can help lower cholesterol by about 3%. Eating plant-based soy protein instead of sources of higher-fat protein — and maintaining a healthy diet — can be good for your heart.
Lean beef has about two grams more saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast. Lean beef is also an excellent source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.
If you don’t have time to sit down for a meal, grab a meal replacement drink, cereal bar, or energy bar. Check the label to be sure the product contains at least six grams of protein and is low in sugar and saturated fat.
Research shows that including a source of protein like an egg or Greek yogurt at breakfast along with a high-fiber grain like whole wheat toast can help you feel full longer and eat less throughout the day.