Protein – the macro, the myth, the legend.
It’s elusive. It’s confusing. It’s something your mother worries about when you mention that your teen wants to try being vegan.
It’s everywhere. Protein powders, protein bars, protein cookies, protein gummies- yes, they exist, and I still gag just remembering the taste.
If the idea of protein has you quickly trying to procrastinate your thoughts about the mysterious macronutrient, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Protein can be really tricky and it doesn’t help that there are a bunch of stories warning you about the dangers of too much protein, too much protein, or looking at protein funny.
Let’s look at this modern-day mystery piece by piece:
What is protein?
Protein is what’s called a macronutrient- meaning, it’s a big thing made from lots of little things. Those little things, amino acids, help build up muscle and can be used as energy when needed. Amino acids in the body go through wear and tear as we move, exercise, and even just exist. We eat protein so our body can toss out the old amino acids and replace it with delicious, shiny new ones.
If you lift weights, it’s especially important to keep your protein consistent so your muscles can grow and become strong.
Protein does NOT mean only meat and dairy. It just means the macronutrient- protein is found in almost all foods in some way or another- and there are plenty non-animal sources of protein like beans, lentils, soy milk, hummus, chickpeas, and meat free substitutes.
Why do I need it?
We spoke previously about how our body breaks down amino acids over time and gets rid of them, taking in new amino acids to keep our muscles in tip top shape. Protein is so much more than a one-trick pony, and has more to offer than just the lego-like ability to build us up and make us look buff.
Protein also acts as something that keeps us full much longer than simple carbs. Time how long it takes for you to get hungry after eating a beans & rice dish vs. just a jelly sandwich with white bread. The beans and rice dish will keep you fuller for longer and with the sandwich…I give it about five minutes (but I MIGHT be speaking from personal experience there).
If you’re a fellow ADHDer, protein is an important tool in ways we can help our brain stay constant through the day. Simple carbs give everyone (not just people with ADHD) a dopamine hit.
It’s the lack of this feel good hormone dopamine that experts believe is the cause of ADHD. So when our brain gets a boost of joy from dopamine, something our body already lacks, it makes us want a little more. And a little more. Eventually we crash.
Protein helps us avoid this consequence by making us feel fuller for longer and less likely to reach for simple carbs.
Sounds great! Where do I get this ‘protein’?
Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, there’s something to be said about plant-based proteins. Foods like:
All have benefits beyond their protein. They all have:
- Fiber (everyone’s best friend. Stay tuned to Center Stage to find out why!)
And can be prepped quickly. Soak dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas over night and you just have to boil them for about 20-30 minutes. You can stick the soaked proteins into a crockpot with some water or broth and leave it on low throughout the day. Or buy them canned and give them a quick rinse through then serve! The possibilities are endless!
For snacks, pack some peanut butter and fruit, or trail mix, or some almonds for a grab and go option. If you like animal products you can grab some cheese, cottage cheese, or yogurt.
Protein powders are a good way to supplement your protein intake if you wake up and don’t feel like eating, or you get home from work and want something but don’t feel like prepping. Whey is the best for a pre or post workout treat, and casein is better for a snack, as casein is slower to break down in our body than whey.
You can also buy vegan protein powder, here are two brands I use for my needs:
TrueNutrition.com is GREAT- for those on a budget and off. You can make custom blends of vegan proteins you like and choose the flavor, as well as boost it with any add ons you might need.
How often should I have protein?
It’s a good idea that if you’re going to have a meal, you should include a source of protein. I would use an online macro calculator to help you find out how much protein you need in a day then divide it by the number of meals you have a day. I also strongly advise seeing a registered dietitian as well.
Protein is helpful for people with ADHD to regulate their cravings and help keep them from refined sugar. On top of that, it’s a great way to feel full and help build muscle!
What’s your favorite way to get protein? Any recipes I should try? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll add it to my Pinterest!
See ya soon, beans!
note: All photos in this blog were from pexel.com, with credit given as dictated by the photographer’s request on the website.