Protein is one of the most important nutrients in all human biology. When the goal is to build or maintain muscle and burn fat at the same time, protein is a priority. You should aim to eat at least 2 grams of quality protein per kg per day, or 0.9 grams per pound of body weight. That is about twice the amount of a regular diet. Why is that?

- All of our muscle tissue consists of protein. Muscle tissue is one of the most active and energy-consuming tissues in the human body. 1 kilogram of muscle can spend up to 100 kcal a day! Nowadays in the passive lifestyle and carbohydrate-rich nutrition, our muscle mass has fallen to dangerously low levels while the fat tissue has risen. This means our metabolism has slowed significantly (meaning the calories the body spends in a day), not to mention the wellbeing and functionality of our bodies have also decreased. Muscle tissue isn’t just necessary to function well but to boost our calorie spending. We all need more muscle mass. Not just the bodybuilders or young athletic people, but also for older people, sick and healthy, and factory or office workers. Functioning muscle mass also prevents and heals joint and back pains. Eating this extra protein constantly gives a signal to our bodies to grow muscle mass. It happens even without physical exertion; although, exercise does speed up the process.

- Every nutrient spends energy to digest, absorb, and send it to its target tissue. This process spends energy and it is called the thermic effect of food. Protein is very hard for a human body to absorb and use; that’s why the process takes up to 20-30% of the energy of protein itself! Imagine - when you eat 100 kcal of protein, it automatically adds 20-30 kcal to energy expenditure just like that! It might not sound like much, but getting this extra 20-30% from day to day, month to month - it will sum up to a large number of extra calories from doing nothing at all. Not to mention building muscle.

- Eating protein has a very cool side effect - it slows down the digestion of food, keeping us full much longer. Have you ever eaten sugary food and felt hungry just an hour later? It never happens with quality protein. Eating enough protein with every meal keeps you feeling full for hours. It is easy to not feel hungry at all by eating a protein-rich diet. It is especially useful for people that have emotional eating problems. When you constantly feel full and energetic, it lowers your risk of snacking or binging.

- There is a process that takes place in our liver which is called gluconeogenesis. This means that our liver turns protein (or protein building blocks - amino acids) into glucose in case of carbohydrate deficiency. That means that if for some reason (for example, low carb diet, or a fast or exceptionally long physical exertion) we don’t get enough carbohydrates from the food, our body will compensate it by turning protein into glucose.

Those are just the most important things protein can do to us, and there are many more positive effects besides these.

So to sum it up, we aim to eat enough quality protein to:

- Feed our muscles and grow metabolically active muscle tissue

- Add extra calories burnt by protein thermic effect

- To keep hunger at bay

- To create a buffer system for low blood sugar

How much is enough and how much is too much?

As I said, we aim to eat 2 to 3x times the amount of protein as the average person. That means that we have to consciously work to raise the amount of protein in our diet. It is harder in the beginning, but it becomes much more intuitive later. As for my question above, how much is enough? It is 0.8 grams per kg or 0.4 grams per pound per day that is recommended by the state. This is the minimum amount that covers our body’s needs. It means that this amount makes sure we don’t suffer from protein insufficiency and don’t get sick (at least in the short term). But is it optimal? Not even close. In almost all the studies done, 2 grams of protein per kg in a day is the best amount for the human body. Anything over 2 grams isn’t dangerous, it just doesn’t add any more value. An average person doesn’t spend 2 grams of protein per kg per day to feed and grow the muscle. He’ll probably use 1 to 1.5 grams. That being said - we maximize protein metabolic effect and we create a buffer mechanism for carbohydrate deficiency. That’s why we aim to eat close to 2 grams per day.

A common question - is protein harmful to kidneys? No - it is a common myth. Extra protein is harmful only to people with kidney diseases or late-stage kidney insufficiency. As for most of us - we can eat protein up to 6 grams per kg or 2.2 pounds of body weight without any problems. BUT - we won’t get any benefits over 2 grams per day. If you have any kidney diseases, you should consult with your doctor.

So, no - protein isn’t harmful, it is vital. The more we eat, up to 2 grams per kg per day, the better the metabolic boost we get. The better the metabolic effect, the more fat we burn naturally. In the next section, we go deeper into the hows of eating protein.

Do it together with your child or on your own.

Do not worry if you cant dance, I can't either.

Have fun and get your body moving.

You can do it:

  • before your workout

  • before your stretching routine

  • or simply to move a bit more during the day

To understand fat, we need to know about the ‘right’ kinds of fat, and how much to eat. Get this right, and you’ll discover the incredible benefits that healthy fats have to offer, including better energy, increased nutrients, improved fat loss and enhanced flavour to your meals. But before you go off and start smothering all your meals with extra cheese and a side of peanut butter, let me give you a word of warning...

With fats, moderation is key, as a little goes a long way. Fat is the most concentrated source of energy, and 1 gram of fat provides around 9 calories (compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates). That’s why understanding portion size is so important, as calories from fats (even “healthy fats”) can quickly add up!

There are three major types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The difference lies in the structure of the fatty acids they are made of. Examples of foods containing a high proportion of saturated fat include animal fat products such as cream, cheese, butter, ghee, and fatty meats. Certain vegetable products have high saturated fat content, such as coconut oil, palm oil and even cocoa.

Many prepared foods are high in saturated fat content, such as pizza, processed dairy, bacon and sausages. Yep - most of the tasty stuff! Poor old saturated fat has been at the forefront of the attack on fat, with the World Health Organization and National Health Service all advising that we avoid this type of fat.

However, if we actually look at recent research, we’ll find nothing to support fears that saturated fat contributes to cardiovascular diseases or increased obesity risk. It appears it’s not so bad after all.

Next, we have a family of unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), typically known as ‘less stable’ than saturated fats, due to their chemical structure. That doesn’t mean they are more likely to harm you, but it does mean they shouldn’t be used for cooking at high temperatures. Always use saturated fats for cooking.

There are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids, linolenic acid (omega 3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (omega 6 fatty acid) in foods. We call these essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from our diets.

There’s also a lot of research to support the health benefits of a balanced omega 3 to 6 fat ratio, and you’ll often see people use omega supplements.

Omega fatty acids are rich in foods such as walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and natural oils like flaxseed and linseed.

Last but by no means least is monounsaturated fat. This has a higher melting point than polyunsaturated fat and a lower melting point than saturated fat. It is liquid at room temperature and semi-solid or solid when cold. Monounsaturated fats are found in natural foods such as red meat, whole milk products, nuts and high-fat fruits such as olives and avocados. Olive oil is about 75% monounsaturated fat.

It’s also important to mention that fat products should come from high-quality sources. Ideally, buy meats classified as ‘organic/grass-fed/wild’, and oils labelled ‘extra virgin’. Potentially harmful toxins can be stored in the bodyfat of animals fed a poor diet or kept in less than ideal environments. As the saying goes, you are what you eat! ​