From animal-based to plant-based there is an abundance of sources to choose from to meet your protein needs. These choices can be categorized as “complete” or “incomplete” proteins. A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids necessary to your diet. The human body uses these amino acids as building blocks to make protein vital to bodily functions. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of the necessary amino acids. It is important to understand the differences in these proteins and how to utilize them to meet your recommended daily allowance (RDA).
Types of Complete Proteins
Your body needs 20 different types of amino acids to function; it can make 11 of these, but the other 9 must be consumed in your diet. Generally, all animal products are complete proteins. This includes meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy. There are less complete plant proteins with the three most commonly available being soy, quinoa, and buckwheat.
Combining Incomplete Proteins
You can still get all nine essential amino acids without eating a complete protein by consuming a combination of incomplete proteins to form a complementary protein. Excellent combinations are:
Grains and legumes (rice and beans or whole-grain bread with almond butter)
Grains and dairy (couscous and feta or pasta and cheese)
Legumes and seeds (falafel)
Mix it up and enjoy!
Benefits of Protein
Now you have the knowledge to meet your protein needs and reap the benefits, among which are:
Feeling full longer
Enhanced muscle repair and recovery
Decreased risk of heart disease
Increased muscle mass
How Much Protein Do You Need?
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about how much protein we really need. Based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, protein should comprise 15-35% of your diet. If you are regularly physically active, your needs may be on the higher end of the spectrum.
You can calculate your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) using the following formula:
Bodyweight (kg)* x 0.8 grams of protein = RDA
*Bodyweight in kg can be found by divided body weight in pounds by 2.2.
61.2 kg x 0.8 grams of protein = 50.0 g of protein per day
Muth, N. D., & Zive, M. M. (2015). Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.