If you've gone your entire life believing that ample protein intake is just for body builders and ego enriched men at the gym looking for gains on gains, then you are amongst 90% of most women and dancers. But we are here to burst your little bullshit bubble and lead you in the right direction of properly educating your ballerina body on what you really need to know about protein.
Protein is ESSENTIAL for not only every dancer but every human. And just like weight training, once you educate yourself, throw`your fears out the studio door and start consuming enough protein, the benefits will be so incredible you'll have no question to continue correct consumption for life!
TLB's team Nutritionist explains exactly why ample protein intake is a must, what it is, where to get it from and just how much we need to stay happy, healthy and bursting with good energy.
Enjoy this knowledge filled article by TLB team Nutritionist, Alex!
What you should know.
The body uses protein for growth and development, muscle repair, immune function, bone development, hormones, hair, energy production… and the list goes on. So if you think about it, it’s pretty bloody important. There is a general awareness around getting enough protein and it isn’t difficult when you know how much you need and where you can find it.
Protein is SO important for dances, whether your goal is to build muscle or not. The constant use of muscles means you need to provide your body with adequate protein to support the building and repairing of muscle tissue. Protein is also another form of fuel when your body needs it and supports overall body function.
What is protein?
Protein is one of three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, protein) and is made up of 20 amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein and bind together in different ways to create different kinds of proteins.
The body can make 11 of the 20 amino acids therefore it’s important that you get the other 9 amino acids from the food you eat. The 9 amino acids that the human body can’t make are referred to as ‘essential’ amino acids and are vital for the mind and body. These must be supplied by the diet.
What is the role of protein in the body?
Growth and maintenance - Proteins form the building blocks of muscles, blood, hair and are needed for replacing dead or damaged cells.
A source of energy - When carbohydrate or fat cells have been used, protein is used as an energy source. The body can break down tissue proteins into amino acids to use for energy or glucose production.
As enzymes - Some proteins act as enzymes to support processes like digestion, the building of bones and glucose production. Enzymes act to facilitate specific chemical reactions in the body.
As hormones - Some hormones use proteins to function such as insulin and glucagon that act to regulate blood glucose levels, human growth hormone that supports and promotes growth and calcitonin that regulates calcium in the blood.
How much protein do you need each day?
The body is endlessly breaking down and losing protein, unable to store amino acids, therefore protein needs to be replaced and consumed in adequate amounts through our diet every day.
The recommended intake of protein/day is:
Females: 0.75g per kg of body weight
Males: 0.84g per kg of body weight
It is pretty easy to meet your daily protein requirements if you make sure you are including a source of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Your protein intake over 3 meals may look like eggs or a quality protein powder for breakfast, a chickpea or chicken salad for lunch and fillet of fish for dinner.
If you are exercising regularly your protein requirements increase by a small amount and differs depending on the type of exercise you do. For example, regular power and strength sports like ballet increase protein requirements to 1.2-1.7g per kg of body weight per day.
What foods have protein in them?
Protein sources include:
Fish and seafood
Legumes - Chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils
Nuts and seeds
Soy products - Tofu and tempeh
Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, oats
Hemp and chia seeds
As I have mentioned, try and aim for a source of protein at each main meal throughout the day.
What about protein powders?
It’s important to try and consume most of your protein through your diet as our foods can supply all the essential amino acids and more.
Protein powders can supply amino acids to the body and can be a great and convenient way to reach you recommended protein intake each day. First, reflect on what sources of protein are in your diet and assess if you have any gaps to fill. Chances are you’re already consuming enough however a quality protein powder can be a great way to meet your protein needs.
There are so many different proteins available including whey (a dairy-based protein) and many plant-based options. If you struggle to digest dairy or consume adequate amounts of dairy each day it may be best to choose a plant-based protein. Choose a quality protein with limited ingredients, additives and sweeteners.
Protein is just one part of the puzzle and it’s important that you don’t forget about carbohydrates and fats as each macronutrient plays an important role and function in your health.
Are you still confused about protein in your diet? As a Holistic Nutritionist, I can help assess your diet and create personalised meal plans to ensure your body is thriving. I offer 1:1 consultations and programs to help you un-diet, eat with balance and create healthy habits so you can reach your health goals. Join my new Facebook community Healthy @ Home to be part of a like-minded community, supported and motivated so you can thrive at home.
Article by Alex Joy / TLB team Nutritionist