Walk Talk Nutrition: protein

ribsKathy and Donna talk protein basics.

Here are some references for protein content of food, based on quality and quantity of amino acids:

  • Excellent: meat, fish/seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy

    • 1 cup milk = 8 g (skim 80 kcal, 1% 90 kcal, 2% 120 kcal, whole 150 kcal)

    • ¼ cup cottage cheese = 7 g (2%/45 kcal)

    • 1 oz cooked meat, fish/seafood, poultry = 7 g

    • 1 large egg = 6 g

Note to baconators:  1 slice cooked pan-fried bacon is 3-4 g protein & 40-55 kcal (depends upon thickness).  Eating 1 oz bacon cooked will cost you 133 kcal but provide nearly 10 g protein.

Most lean red meats average only 45 kcal/oz for 7 g protein.

  • Good plant sources:
    • legumes cooked ½ cup  = 7 g protein
    • nuts/seeds 1 oz or ¼ cup = 8 g but also very high in kcal
  • Grains/grain products vary but most contain 3-4 g protein per ½ cup cooked serving

    • Reg or WW spaghetti cooked ½ cup = 4 g

    • quinoa cooked  ½ c = 4 grams

    • Millet cooked ½ c = 3 g

    • Buckwheat cooked ½ c = 3 g

    • Bulghar cooked ½ cup = 3 g

    • Rolled oats cooked ½ cup = 3 g

    • Steel cut oats cooked ½ cup = 4 g

    • Bread 1oz slice = 2-3 g (depending upon brand)

    • Dry breakfast cereal – varies but most ¾ cup (1oz) servings = 2-3 g protein (some brands have added ingredients to pump up protein; ¾ cup = 10-13 g)

  • Low protein:  non-starchy vegetables ½ cup cooked (1 cup raw) = 2 g
  • Zero protein: fruits, sugar, syrups, added sweeteners, oils and fats, soft drinks

Here’s a list of the calorie cost of a gram of protein, which we discuss briefly.  Boneless chicken breast is the most protein per calorie.  The protein foods with the highest calorie cost are nuts/seeds.

Protein intake goals:

  • the basic recommendation is 0.8 grams per kg body weight per day
  • reduced calorie weight loss diets may recommend 90-100 grams/day, to help with appetite control
  • athletes may need 1.2-1.5 grams/kg/day, and some recommendations approach 2 grams/kg/day.
  • Excess protein is turned to glucose and either burned for energy or stored as fat, so no benefit from over-consuming protein.

Reliable books on sports nutrition that include more information about protein for athletes:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition

 Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Bernadot

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