Proteins are one of the macro nutrients- nutrients needed in large quantity that our body requires to sustain life. Proteins are used by our body for building and repairing cells and tissues. It is about 15% of our body composition and is present in every cell of our body. Proteins are made up from 20 Amino acids, and our body contains at least 10,000 different proteins. In addition to body building, proteins are essential for functions like blood clotting, fluid balance, immune system responses, good vision, they are a structural component of hormones and enzymes.
NIN recommends 0.8- 1g /kg body weight of protein intake daily, however Indian diets are predominantly poor in proteins across all socio-economic groups. Taking adequate proteins are essential and so is the correct time to ingest them, so that they are used well by our body. There is no established guideline regarding the best time to consume protein, it can be prompted by your health goals.
The best time to eat proteins for maximum benefit depends on your health targets.
1. Weight Management:
Proteins help control appetite and prevent overeating. Scientific research has determined that proteins help boosting satiety hormones, while controlling hunger hormone. The thermic effect of proteins is also higher than carbohydrates and fats- meaning that the body spends more calories metabolizing proteins, so you land up spending more calories. Late night cravings are the bane of weight management and very though to control. Eating adequate proteins through the day helps prevent late night cravings.
Best Taken: It is taken during breakfast to speed up the metabolism for the day. At dinner, replacing carbs partially with proteins has shown a positive effect. A weight loss diet must provide at least 25% of the total calories from quality proteins.
2. Supports Muscle Mass & Strength Gain
Are you training to increase muscle mass and strength, then it is essential to focus on your proteins, as these are the building blocks needed. Muscles are made up of proteins primarily, it is the most essential nutrient for muscle health.
Best taken: Research indicates that when protein intake is spread out across the day, it helps muscles utilize them better. However, it is essential to take a small amount before exercise, within 20-60 minutes post workout and at bedtime also. For athletes, for whom there is a need for R&R after every work out, 15-60 minutes post workout is the anabolic window, and it is critical to take proteins for maximum benefit. The need for proteins for people who work out strenuously can range from 20-30% of total calorific intake.
Proteins are essential to maintain the integrity of the muscle mass. Good protein intake has shown to prevent diabetes. Diabetics need to have balanced meals throughout the day to ensure that there are no spikes or troughs in sugar levels. Proteins as a part of a healthy meal are needed to help maintain the integrity of the body muscle mass.
Best Taken: Protein taken in moderate amounts as a part of a healthy balanced meal throughout the day prevents overeating helping in weight management, insulin levels, sugar surges. The amount recommended is 0.8 to 1 gm / kg body weight.
Proteins are critical for the healthy growth of the baby's tissues and organs. Proteins are also critical for ensuring that the maternal demand for increased blood volume, uterine and breast tissue growth are met. Pregnancy is a period of accelerated growth for both the baby and mother and all nutrients are critical for a safe pregnancy.
Best Taken: As there is a need for adequate and increased protein intake, it is best spread across the day. As the baby grows, the stomach is pushed so eating a large amount at one time may not be comfortable for the mother. Small frequent meals with proteins in each, will help achieve the protein targets. The requirements for proteins increase in every trimester. The first trimester needs normal amounts - 0.8-1g/ kg body weight, Second and third trimester- 1.2 gm/ kg body weight.
5. Recovery and Repair
Proteins help speed up repair after injury which may be caused by an illness, surgery, accident, or exercise. Proteins are what the tissue are made of, so if we need to build and repair any tissue, we need good proteins.
Best taken: In such a scenario it is advised to take proteins through the day. Both the quality and quantity matter. Protein requirements go up during an illness or recovery period. 20-25% of total calories can be added.
6. Sleep Better
You might get better sleep with some protein before snoozing. Studies have shown a positive correlation between protein intake and better quality of sleep. Proteins like Tryptophan help metabolize the sleep hormone Melatonin.
Best Taken: It is best taken with some carbs in a bedtime. Amino acid tryptophan helps sleep, and carbs help in their delivery into the brain so eating a small snack of protein and carbs at bedtime will help you sleep.
Overall try to spread small amounts of proteins through the day. I have highlighted how proteins work for specific goals. Another point I would like to make before signing out is that proteins are utilized better when taken with carbohydrates. Carbs have a protein sparing action, allowing them to be used for their prime function.
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