Protein is classified as a macronutrient and is an important element present in every cell of our body. In fact, protein constitutes about 15% of our body, the highest after water.

These proteins are broken down into 20 amino acids that are known as the ‘building blocks of protein’. Our muscle tissues are made up of protein along with skin, bones, blood, cartilage, hair and nails. So if you aren’t giving your body enough protein, you are stopping the growth as well as building of new tissue and repair of damaged tissues.

The human body does not have the ability to store protein and produces only 11 of the amino acids but the remaining 9 essential amino acids have to be given from external sources. Poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, and various vegetarian sources like channa, dals, paneer, nuts and seeds are the major protein providers.

So how much protein do we really need?

Men and women both have misconceptions about protein. While men think that if they consume protein in large amounts, they’ll build muscle faster, while women think that too much protein will make them look bulky ‘like a man’. Truth is, too much protein doesn’t help build muscle faster and less protein affects the body’s overall growth and repair.

So how much protein does the body actually require? Gym trainers tell clients to consume protein shakes if and when they’re hungry instead of eating or snacking between meals because they’re low in calorie and help build muscle. But if your diet does not contain adequate carbohydrates and fats to provide energy to the body, protein is then broken down to provide energy, which renders the protein useless. Therefore, one’s diet must have a balance of adequate carbs and fats to provide energy so that these proteins are most efficiently used for what they are actually meant to do, which is repair, growth and maintenance.

According to the Required Daily Allowance (RDA) for India, 2009, the average sedentary Indian adult should consume 0.66g/kg/day, which means that a person whose weight is 60 kilograms should consume about 40 grams of protein in one day. However, 0.83g/kg/day is also a safe level. So the same 60Kg person can also consume up to 50 grams of protein per day.

1 gram of protein is 4 calories, so 40 grams = 160 calories.

Vegetarian sedentary individuals can depend on pulses, legumes, sprouts, nuts and seeds since they are incapable of complete muscle repair. For exercising individuals dairy products like skim milk, skim curd, home-made paneer made out of skimmed milk are very good options. Protein supplements like whey and casein become very convenient options for vegetarians. ‘Eggetarians’ can add eggs along with above mentioned food options.

Here are some foods rich in protein content: -

Egg whole (1) – 6.5 grams

Meat (40g) – 8 grams

Pulses (30g - uncooked) – 7 grams

Slim Dahi (100g) – 4.1 grams

Skimmed Milk (200ml) – 7.5 grams

Nuts & Seeds (30g – unsalted) – 5 grams

So be wise when eating, figure how much protein your body needs with the help of a nutrition expert. But remember; always consume a perfect balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

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