What is Protein Anyway?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (macros), which means that our bodies require a large amount of it to survive. I’m sure you already realize that it is an essential part of a healthy diet. But did you know that not all proteins are the same? Let us take a few minutes to explain the nitty-gritty details about protein and how you can achieve your macro targets by eating balanced snacks.
Remember those alphabet blocks that we used as kids? Well, imagine that proteins are made of these blocks (amino acids). You can join the letter blocks together to create various words (proteins). However, unlike the alphabet, humans use only 22 amino acids to build their essential proteins.
Depending on their sequence, amino acids can create many different types of protein with various functions and structures. The majority of proteins don’t require all of the building blocks - just like how words don’t use every letter of the alphabet.
Our bodies can readily produce many of the amino acids, but there are 9 that we have to acquire from our diets, known as “essential amino acids”. We should all aim to consciously consume these regularly, to provide our bodies with the building blocks they need.
*Disclaimer: Please don’t eat alphabet blocks...that can’t be very comfortable!
Plant-Based Protein Vs. Animal Protein
If you follow a plant-based diet, then it’s likely that you’ve heard something along the lines of: “But where do you get your protein from?”
So, what exactly is the difference between plant-based protein and animal protein anyway? Once it all gets broken down and stored, not much. All of the amino acids are kept pooled within your blood until your body requires them.
Then what is all the fuss about? Well, there are a few differences between them when they are still in the form of food. The first being that the majority of animal protein contains all of the 9 essential amino acids, meaning that it is a “whole” or “complete” protein. In contrast, the majority of vegan food sources are incomplete.
Luckily, a few plant-based complete protein sources exist, such as soy, quinoa, and peas. What’s more, there are many complementary plant-based food sources that, when eaten together, provide a whole protein. And the great thing is that healthy vegan protein meals and snacks often come packed with other nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and good fats! This is known as the plant-based protein package.
A Macronutrient: Why is Protein so Important?
If you’re involved in the fitness world, then you’ve most likely heard the word macros being thrown around a lot. As mentioned earlier, macronutrients are essential components of a healthy diet, which we require a lot of. There are three of them altogether:
Protein is perhaps the most talked-about macro. It’s often associated with athletes and bodybuilders, but it’s actually incredibly important for everyone! Why else would we write a blog dedicated to it?
The word “protein” is derived from “proteus”, which is Greek for “most important”
Protein is everywhere; it’s present in all of your body’s cells. From building and repairing muscle to regulating your brain function, controlling your hormones, strengthening your immune system, and providing you with energy, protein is essential for the correct functioning of your body. Now you understand why it’s a macronutrient!
Keto, paleo, raw, low carbohydrates, juicing, no sugar...the list of fad diets go on. For years people have cut out different food groups, stopped snacking, or seriously restricted what they are allowed to eat in order to lose weight, create a calorie deficit, gain muscle, etc.
These miserable types of diets are often complicated and difficult to follow - not to mention their ability to cause immense guilt when you slip up and raid the fridge for a snack. They are definitely not flexible and, more likely than not, lead to the exact opposite of what you wanted to achieve.
Let’s Talk Macros
What would you say if we told you that there was a diet that could help you achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they might be? That you could still eat whatever snacks you like, as long as you adjust your macros accordingly? You probably wouldn’t believe us, right? Well, let us change your mind by pointing you in the direction of our blog about using the 80/20 rule to sustain success!
Macro Ratio: Where Does Protein Fit in?
If you’ve read our article on how to calculate your macronutrients, then you will know that you need a ratio along the lines of 45% carbs, 30% protein, and 25% fat. You should also understand how you can calculate the number of a snack’s calories that can be attributed to each macro.
It’s all about balance! Once you have worked out your BMR and macro ratio, you can start focusing on hitting those protein targets. It may sound complicated, but once you get the hang of it it’s easier than you think. Plus, it allows you to be more flexible by not restricting certain snacks and food types.
You can continue indulging in your favorite snacks because you can just adjust your macro intake before or for the rest of the day! For example, if you eat a cake for breakfast (it happens) that is high in fat and carbohydrates, then you can focus on eating food that is high in protein and low in the other macros for the rest of the day.
Not Enough Protein?
Are you struggling to get enough vegan protein without going over on your carbohydrate and fat allowances? The trick is to increase your protein intake, whilst not adding too many calories from the other macros. There are plenty of great plant-based protein snacks to help you hit your target.
With that being said, don’t be fooled by the world of health and fitness marketing, who aim to promote various dieting fads. For example, the excessive promotion of protein snacks, which promise to increase muscle gain. The important thing is to maintain the balance.
Sound difficult? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!
The best part is that we have created delicious snacks that you can indulge in, whilst staying on track for your macro ratio! Not only are they full of flavor, but they also satisfy both calorie and macronutrient goals. Whilst our macro snacks are high in protein, they also optimally balanced for nutrition.
Find out more about our Macro Story here!