Confused About Protein Intake? Herbalife Nutrition Discusses the Importance of Protein in Your Diet

Protein is fundamental for helping repair and grow tissues, alongside offering the core nutrients for building healthy muscles, bones, cartilage and skin. Anetha at Celebrity Angels speaks to Herbalife Nutrition’s experts about the impact of low levels of protein in your diet, what a “complete protein” refers to and popular protein myths.

1. What is protein and the function of protein in the body?

We all need to eat protein; it’s one of the essential building blocks in the human body. It gives the body form and function making our muscles strong and helping to give strength and stability to bones and tissues as well as making up the components of cellular membranes.

2. How can low levels of protein adversely affect the body?

The human body needs protein for the development and maintenance of muscle tissue: skeletal muscle in our arms, legs and abdominal muscles – and for vital organs, including the cardiac muscle in the heart. If we don’t consume enough protein, the body will start to rob other tissues of its protein to keep feeding the brain and other vital organs, which will inevitably lead to major health issues. Correspondingly, we need to make sure we’re having at least the minimum level of protein recommended by the World Health Organization, which is 0.8 g per kg bodyweight per day (WHO, 2007).

3. Where do we get protein from?

We get protein from the food we eat, yet not all proteins are the same. Proteins are made of building blocks, known as amino acids, nine of which are essential and which our bodies don’t produce on their own. It’s these essential amino acids that differentiate complete proteins from incomplete proteins. A complete protein is a food that contains all nine of the essential amino acids in high enough amounts for our bodily functions. Typically, complete proteins are animal-based foods, such as meat, fish, milk, eggs and cheese. The only plant-based source of a complete protein is soybeans. An incomplete protein is a food that is low in one or more of the nine essential amino acids. They include grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

4. How can we increase our protein intake, especially as we age?

Many people assume, that as you get older, you don’t need to eat as much protein due to a decrease in our appetites, though this is a myth. As we age, we lose muscle mass. Inadequate protein intake is closely linked to a loss of muscle strength and a slowing down of the body’s metabolism – especially after the age of 65 (Deutz et al., 2014; Bauer et al., 2013).

As an older adult, eating a little more protein can lead to improved strength and physical performance. The amount typically recommended is 1 to 1.2g per kilogram of body weight.

5. What is a ‘complete’ protein?

A complete protein has all of the nine essential amino acids that ensure you’re getting all of the protein-related nutrients that your body needs to function properly. If you’re a meat-eater or a pescatarian (fish, but no meat), you’re likely to be getting all nine essential amino acids.  Even lacto-ovo vegetarians, who don’t eat meat or fish but do eat eggs and dairy can get enough complete protein from these sources.

6. Is there a recommended intake of complete proteins and which groups require them more?

The recommended intake of complete proteins is around 50g for a woman and 60g per day for a man. Herbalife Nutrition recommends a little more than the World Health Organization’s minimum. We recommend that up to 30% of your daily calorie intake is from sources of protein, which equates to a maximum of 150g for a man consuming 2,000 kcal per day and up to 105g for a woman consuming 1,400 kcal per day. This is pretty conservative and is by no means a high protein diet, but we think it’s both healthy and reasonable.

7. What are the benefits of consuming complete proteins?

Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies need for basic health. We need to make sure we consume complete proteins in our daily diet because our bodies cannot make these essential amino acids. Protein plays a vital role in our bodies. A diet rich in protein can help your body grow and maintain healthy tissue. Protein can also help repair and assist in the production of new cells and produce antibodies to fight infections.

8. How can vegetarians and vegans make sure they’re getting the benefits of complete proteins?

A person following a vegan or vegetarian diet should eat a varied diet of plant-based foods to get the required range of amino acids. Rich sources can include tofu, lentils, peas, beans, nuts, flaxseed, rice or quinoa. The only plant-based source of complete protein is the soy bean which has all the essential amino acids the body needs for basic health.

9. What are the benefits of switching to organic sources of plant-based protein?

For the growth of organic crops, restricted synthetic inputs are used. Pests and weeds are controlled in a natural way. All in all, organic agriculture is a holistic way of production, that aims to produce food while enhancing the health of ecosystems in the long-term, like biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil life (FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999).

10. How can Herbalife Nutrition’s Tri Blend contribute to a healthy diet?

Tri Blend Select contains a unique combination of pea, quinoa and flax seed as part of a premium protein blend that provides all the essential amino acids in a complete protein. It’s therefore a convenient way of consuming a 100% vegan and complete protein shake – with naturally sourced and organic ingredients. It’s low in sugar, high in protein and fibre providing vitamin C and seven key minerals that the body needs.  Tri Blend is so much more than a protein shake – you can use it to make all your favourite recipes. You can cook with it, you can use it in baking to make things like cookies, you can add it to smoothies or breakfast bowls. Tri Blend offers a simple way to increase your protein intake through all of your favourite drinks and dishes.

References

Joint WHO/FAO/UNU Expert Consultation, Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition. World health organization technical report series, 2007, 935: 1.

Deutz NE, et al. PC Protein intake and exercise for optimal muscle function with aging: recommendations from the ESPEN Expert Group. Clin Nutr. 2014. 33(6):929–936.

Bauer J, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013. 14(8):542–559

FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission. (1999). ORGANIC AGRICULTURE. Codex Alimentarius 9 Rev. 1.

This Q&A is brought to you by Herbalife Nutrition, a global leader in meal replacements, nutritional supplements and skin care products, with more than four million Herbalife Nutrition shakes consumed every day across the globe. Operating in more than 90 countries with over 8,000 employees around the world, Herbalife Nutrition’s core philosophy revolves around maximising access to personalised nutrition and following the founding of the company in 1980, Herbalife Nutrition Institute’s leading experts have demonstrated unflinching excellence in the field of nutrition via their persistent research and education. 

Visit the website to find out more! 

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