Protein is essential for muscular and cellular repair and growth, so it requires proper intake. If you are a teen athlete, then it becomes, even more, a necessity. Your training and performance break down muscles more than non-athletes, so you need to make sure they rebuild because your muscles are made of proteins.
Eating the correct amount of protein each day is essential. Consuming more protein than your body needs converts to fat. Consuming too little protein means your body has to break down muscles to get them. When your body eats enough proteins, it will use them to build and repair muscles.
The amount of protein teenagers need varies. For example, if you don’t play sports and consider yourself non-athletic, then you would want to consume between 0.8-0.9 grams of protein per kilogram per pound of body weight. Just divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2 (2.2kg is equal to 1lbs.) and then times it by .08. For example, 120 lbs./ 2.2 = 55kg. 55kg x .8 = 44g. If you are an athlete, then you want to increase your protein intake to 0.9-1.0g.
Why is protein important for a teenager?
As a teenager, your body is still developing and growing quickly. Protein needs to be present to meet the demands and growing changes and needs of your body. And, if you are busy running around and always on the go, even if you are not an athlete, a busy life running around still counts! No matter what sport, recreational activity, or busy social life you have, you need to balance your meals and use healthy snacks with enough protein for your body to maintain muscle and energy levels each day. Without protein, your body will break down muscles, and that will lead to fatigue and decrease your ability to train and perform, as well as socialize.
What foods are high in protein?
Many foods contain protein, but the best sources of protein come from beef, chicken, fish, eggs, yogurt, and milk.
- Grilled chicken breast- 25g. per 3oz.
- Ground burger -23g. per 3oz.
- Turkey burger 25g. per 3oz
- Fish – 22g. per 3oz.
- Milk – 8g per 1 cup
- Yogurt- 12g. per 1 cup
- Greek yogurt -20g. per 1 cup
- Black beans- 16g. per 1 cup
- Peanut Butter – 8g. per 2 tbsp
- Hard-boiled egg 6g. per 1 large egg
Animal proteins are complete proteins because they contain all amino acids.
Vegetable proteins are incomplete because they don’t have enough amino acids, and not all are present. Therefore, you need to combine them like a vegetarian.
Vegan or vegetarian diets pair plant-based foods with others to complement and complete a protein. For example, combining and eating grains with a vegetable; rice and black beans, peanut butter sandwich with wheat bread, hummus, and pita, each one is combined with its pair to make and complete a whole protein.
Teens and Protein Supplements?
In general, you should get your protein from foods first and use supplements like whey protein sparingly. When you eat foods, you get more minerals, vitamins, fiber, etc., than what you would get in just a protein shake. Using protein supplements is good when you know you have a busy day or need something quick. If you need to use a protein supplement, chose one low in sugar and one that has a good amount of nutrients. Whey protein is a good supplementation because it is a complete protein and has all essential amino acids. However, it will not fill you up.
I know it can be boring trying to understand protein. Take some time to make a healthy meal plan and stick to it. The information tends to become confusing and somewhat defeating because you have to eat so much of this and so much of that. Just make sure each meal contains a protein and a vegetable and just change the color of the vegetable- carrot, potato, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower. If you don’t like these vegetable choices, choose your own. Variety can be somewhat important, but what’s most important is consistency; consistency eating the correct amount of protein each day as well as eating a variety of veggies. That is what will keep you healthy.