The 14 Day Protein Challenge
Transforming your health By eating real food
Are you eating enough protein?
For the next two weeks, I will help and guide you to eat a good quality protein source with every main meal.
At the end of each day, I will post some mindset tips, a daily lesson on protein and various downloads, including recipes. Each day will be quick and easy to complete whilst providing you with useful information regarding the importance of dietary protein and the resources to help plan your day.
If you do not want to use the resources I have provided, you can easily just use a note pad to write down daily reflections and plan your meals.
This challenge is for general information purposes only. This 14-day challenge does not replace individual nutrition advice. Always speak with your health care professional if you have any medical conditions and unsure if this challenge is appropriate for you.
Lesson Plan for the 14 Days
Pre-Start Lesson – General Introduction to Protein
Today’s pre-lesson will get you started and provide you with the tools needed to start the challenge on Day 1.
Day 1 – The importance of protein to human health
Day 2 – The different types of protein quality
Day 3 – Circumstances when you need extra dietary protein
Day 4 – Protein & muscle loss
Day 5 – Amino Acids
Day 6 – No Lessons
Day 7 – Signs that you may not be eating enough protein
Day 8 – The importance of protein to help pre-and post-surgery recovery
Day 9 – Protein & exercise
Day 10 – Protein & the brain
Day 11 – Protein supplements
Day 12– Protein & kidneys
Day 13 – No Lessons
Day 14 – Protein & weight loss
Small Changes Can Make A Big Difference.
Proteins are considered the building blocks of human biological life. The Greek name for protein is “proteos”, which means “primary” or “taking first place”.
In human diet and nutrition, the importance of protein for our health cannot be emphasised enough. Protein is an essential nutrient which means it contains compounds that we can only get from foods. In this case, it is amino acids.
Protein is found throughout our body and makes up approximately 40% of our muscles. Over 25% of protein is found in our organs, such as the heart, liver, kidneys, and the remaining protein is found throughout the body such as our blood and skin.
There is a lot of misinformation that higher-protein diets are unhealthy or harmful for your kidneys; however, it never holds up when we look at all the research, especially in health adults. Many of the research papers suggesting protein is harmful for kidneys is of very poor quality. However, I will look at this in more detail on Day 12.
How do I start to incorporate more protein into my diet?
The number one tip is to plan your meals. Choose which sources of protein you enjoy and would like to eat and in what quantities. Also, choose a variety of different food proteins to keep your meals interesting.
If you rarely eat protein with all meals, then start with a small portion per meal and have a goal to eat the minimum amount per day. See the worksheet on calculating daily protein targets to help set your goal.
- On a piece of paper create your challenge goal and commit to this challenge. i.e., “My goal is to consume my target protein amount every day for 14 days”.
- Calculate your protein target – see below to download.
- Download protein guide – see below to download.
- Use the weekly meal planner to plan your daily meals and record your protein goal intake – see below to download.
- Download recipe ideas – see below.
Day 1 Lesson
How was Day 1?
The most overlooked factor when introducing a new routine into your everyday life is bridging the gap between what you want to do and the behaviour you’re trying to make automatic. In this case, ensuring you have eaten your target protein intake for the day.
You’ve got to close the loop between your intention and your behaviour. To do this, we use daily reflections by answering these two questions.
- What did I do well today?
- What did I learn today?
These questions are essential to help you reflect and learn.
Lesson – Day 1
Protein has many biological critical roles and is one of the most versatile nutrients used by the body to enable essential biological processes to occur optimally.
Some of the critical function’s protein has in the human body include:
- New tissue growth and repair.
- Enzymes are protein that helps with chemical processes such as digestion and cellular metabolism.
- Providing structural support for cells and tissues.
- Transporting materials into cells.
- Act as hormones and receiving chemical messengers to help cells, tissue, and organs communicate.
- Transportation of substances such as nutrients and oxygen around the body.
- Protein enables the immune system by forming antibodies.
Over recent years, the importance of protein in our diet has become increasingly apparent. Recently, research has revealed significant evidence that many animals, including humans, have a dominant appetite for protein, hard-wired into us from a biological point of view. This appetite for a fixed dietary daily protein target is likely programmed into us to ensure our body systems can function optimally.
Additionally, the new information coming out of this research suggests that if we do not eat enough protein to meet our biological needs, we will continue eating until our body protein needs are satisfied. We call this the protein leverage hypothesis. What this means in the real world, if we are eating a diet low in protein, we may be eating more food and overconsume low-quality foods until our protein needs are met.
- Write your answers to the two questions in your reflection tracker – see below to download.
- Plan your protein choices for tomorrow – see below to download a meal planner.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 2 – see below.
Day 1 Downloads
Day 2 Lesson
How was Day 2?
Making changes do not happen overnight. Old habits can be hard to change, especially when we have been doing something or thinking something for many years. So, cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself if your changes don’t happen immediately. Current research shows that it can take up to 3 months for a new intentional change to become a new behaviour for many people. If you are reading this lesson, you have started the change journey.
Putting pen to paper can help sort out your thoughts. Writing your thoughts down helps slow down the mind and become more focused on what you are actually thinking. Writing down what’s on your mind can help you examine your current thoughts and then down the track you can re-examine what you were thinking or how you were feeling. Writing a daily reflection allows us to take a bird’s eye view of our thoughts at a given point in time.
Again today, use your reflection tracker and answer the following 2 questions:
- What did I do well today?
- What did I learn today?
Lesson – Day 2
Not all protein is created equal. When considering what type of protein to eat, I encourage you to look at food protein quality.
Protein can be derived from both animal and plant sources. A scale known as DIAAS (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score) is used to reflect the digestibility quality of the essential amino acids in foods.
Protein sources that offer large amounts of all the essential amino acids are referred to as high-quality proteins. These proteins are mostly animal-based foods and some plant foods such as soy, quinoa and amaranth. However, in general, plant foods are referred to as low quality proteins due to the fact that they will have very low amounts of one or two of the essential amino acids, for example:
- Wheat is low in lysine.
- Legumes are low in methionine.
- Most plant-based protein sources are low in leucine, methionine, lysine and tryptophan.
If eating only plant sources of protein – you need to ensure you are getting enough essential amino acids. To do this you usually need to eat a mixture and variety of different plant foods throughout the day to ensure adequate dietary intake of all the essential amino acids is achieved and you are eating enough protein each day.
Protein balance must be positive. This means that dietary protein intake for protein synthesis (making protein) must exceed what our body breakdowns to function properly. Ensuring a positive protein balance will help the build-up muscle, maintain lean muscle mass and ensure all the biological functions mention in Day 1 Lesson can occur.
- Put pen to paper and complete your reflection tracker for day 2- see below to download.
- Plan your protein choices for tomorrow – see below to download a meal planner.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 3 – see below.
Day 2 Downloads
Day 3 Lesson
How was Day 3?
Today I want you to pause for a moment to think about your intention about this challenge and your reason is for doing it.
Why are you doing this challenge?
It is good to reconnect with the “why” by taking a moment each day to reflect on what you would like to achieve with this 2-week challenge. If it’s to help yourself or help others, consider those people (or that person) now and keep them in mind as you work your way through this challenge.
Take some time to reflect on the following question:
- What is important to me?
Lesson – Day 3
There are certain circumstances when people may need more protein due to an increase in biological demand. Some of the reasons why a person may require an increase in dietary protein include:
- The elderly and frail.
- Increased stress, both physical and psychological.
- Chronic health issues.
- Growth and development in infants and children.
- Surgical stress.
- High-performance athletes, bodybuilding or any activity that adds an increase in physical demand.
Current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendations for protein are 64 grams per day for men between 19 – 70 years and 46 grams per day for women between 19 – 70 years. These recommendations are only for healthy Australians and not people that may have an increase in biological demand, as outlined above.
There are several issues with how the generic recommendation for daily protein intake is developed and more than likely not correct for many people. Some of the issues include:
- These intakes do not represent all populations. The recommendations are calculated on people with a bodyweight of 76 kilos for men and 57 kilos for women. In Australia, greater than 60% of the adult population is now overweight or obese.
- The recommendations assume that everyone has a healthy muscle mass. However, in today’s world, Australians are less physically active, and older Australians often have less muscle mass. Therefore, current recommended intake of protein, may not be adequate for many people.
- The current protein recommendation does not account for the optimal muscle mass for metabolic function and muscle strength.
- Protein recommendations assume that everyone eats protein contained in high-quality food sources from a varied diet. However, the reality is that Australians are consuming protein from food sources that contain low quality protein, see Day 2 – Lesson where I discuss protein quality. It is estimated that nearly 40% of Australians daily protein comes from fast food, cakes, pastries and biscuits.
Current Australian recommended daily protein intakes are population based and do not consider you as an individual. It is important to ensure that your daily protein intake is individualised to you for your health and biological requirements.
- Write your answers to your reflection questions in your reflection tracker in addition to your thoughts on what is important to you – see below.
- The reflection tracker has been updated to provide an answer box for “What is important to me?”
- Plan your protein choices for tomorrow – see below to download a meal planner.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 4 – see below.
Day 3 Downloads
Day 4 Lesson
How was Day 4?
It can be challenging to stay consistent with a transformation if you have a lot going on in your life or move away from your routine.
The perfect example of this is the weekend. So, I would like to help keep you focused during the weekend.
Having nothing in the fridge by the end of the week is common, and it can become too easy to order takeaway and junk food. One of the most straightforward strategies to avoid meal fatigue by the end of the week is to have easy, no fuss foods and meals on hand. Personally, one of my favourite no-fuss meals is a cooked roast chicken and a ready to go salad in a bag including the dressing.
So have a think a day or two before the weekend and plan ahead what no-fuss meals you can have on the weekend, whilst being mindful of your challenge target.
If you are going out to eat, check out the menu beforehand. Most restaurants have an online menu, and you can pre-plan what you are going to eat. Knowing what meals are available before you eat out will help reduce any stress of making snap decisions when you arrive at the restaurant. If you plan to go out for the day and usually eat at cafes, think about taking a picnic instead allowing you to plan what foods you are taking in advance.
If you have a setback on the weekend from your health goals, DO NOT TOSS IN THE TOWEL!! A one or two meal setbacks will not undo all the work you have done so far. Just remember to get back to basics, plan your next meal with your nutrition goals in mind.
Lesson – Day 4
Muscle loss and function loss starts to occur in our 30s, and by the time a person turns 80 years, up to 40% of muscle mass can be lost. Older adults have an accelerated muscle loss, with an average yearly rate of muscle mass loss at approximately 0.5 – 1%.
Signs and symptoms of muscle mass loss include:
- Reduced strength.
- Reduced ability to do physical activities.
- Reduce muscle size.
Reduced muscle mass is linked to several physical health issues, including:
- Increase in falls.
- Weakness & fatigue.
- Less able to carry out regular daily tasks such as standing up from chairs, getting out of bed, climbing stairs or carrying groceries.
Looking at our lifestyle can make a big difference to our muscle health. We can significantly slow this muscle loss and save 1 – 2 years of muscle decline through physical activity and diets containing good quality protein sources. However, it is estimated that more than 50% of physically active older adults are not consuming intakes of protein to support the increase in muscle protein synthesis response after physical activity.
Exercise helps prevent muscle loss by:
- Increasing muscle protein synthesis rates.
- Keeping skeletal muscle sensitive to dietary protein and suppressing inflammatory chemicals that cause muscle breakdown.
Current protein intake recommendations for people over 65 years do not align with the latest evidence. Moreover, older adults that are physically active require significantly more protein to compensate for a reduced capacity in the ability for the muscle to utilise protein effectively.
Research has demonstrated that the suggested protein intake for active older adults is approximately 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
Also, research has shown that increasing protein intake does not affect renal function in healthy older adults. Therefore, increasing protein intake can be an effective and safe strategy to mitigate age-related muscle loss in physically active older adults.
- Plan your weekend meals. Put a strategy in place that will allow you to focus on ensuring you are meeting your daily protein goals.
- I have included a weekend meal planner in your downloads. There is extra space for you to plan out your meals and strategies in greater detail.
- Continue with your daily reflections – see below.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 5 – see below.
Day 4 Downloads
Day 5 Lesson
How was Day 5?
What a week of lessons and learning! Did you know that recent research has found the brain is far more mailable (can be shaped) than previously thought?
Research has found that our brain neuronal networks can grow new connections, strengthen connections already there and speed up message transmission with learning and experience.
Science has discovered the actions we take, such as putting strategies in place, being inquisitive, practising a task, improving our diets and lifestyle, helps increase our brain’s capacity to grow, change and improve. More importantly, in alignment with these daily lessons, new brain pathways are formed when you learn.
So, keep on learning!!
Lesson – Day 5
Protein is a macronutrient due to it being a large and complex molecule, consisting of many smaller molecules known as amino acids. Proteins are broken down into amino acids during the digestive process and then absorbed, ready for the body to re-combine the amino acids into various combinations needed for biologicals functions.
In total, 20 different amino acids are biologically necessary for humans, with 9 of these amino acids only obtained from food sources, making them “essential amino acids”.
The 20 different amino acids are needed to make proteins in our body, i.e., muscle with the liver using most of the amino acids (up to 65%) after a meal and tightly regulating amino acid metabolism.
Out of these 20 amino acids:
- Our body can make 11 amino acids.
- Our body can’t make 9 amino acids – these are known as essential amino acids because they have to come from our diet.
The essential amino acids and some of their significant roles are listed below:
- Phenylalanine – is needed for the production of tyrosine which is required to make thyroid hormones and dopamine.
- Valine – helps stimulates muscle growth and repairs damaged tissue.
- Threonine – has a significant role in the nervous system and used to treat various nervous system disorders.
- Tryptophan – is used by the body to make the sleep hormone melatonin and mood hormone serotonin.
- Isoleucine – is needed to make haemoglobin. It helps to regulate blood sugar and energy levels.
- Methionine – is needed for the growth and repair of tissue and is involved in the detoxifying process to protect cells from pollutants.
- Leucine – prevents muscle protein breakdown after trauma or severe stress.
- Lysine – is active against the herpes simplex virus. It helps improves the immune system and is needed for collagen formation.
- Histidine – is needed for the formation of myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells.
Three of the essential amino acids are known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) (leucine, isoleucine & valine)
- BCAA’s are metabolised in the muscles and not the liver.
- BCAA’s stimulate muscle protein synthesis & help reduce the breakdown.
- Leucine is the most crucial BCAA as it acts as a master switch for protein synthesis in our body.
Day 6 is a Lesson Free Day.
You can use this day to go back over the past week and review all the previous lessons. Also, perhaps use this time to reread your reflections. Is there a pattern forming to your thoughts each day?
I have included 2 days of recipe ideas to cover you for Day 6 and for Day 7!
The next lesson will be posted on Sunday!
- Remember to use the weekend meal planner to help you focus and strategise your weekend nutrition targets. You may find this helpful especially as weekends can be outside of our usual day to day routine and perhaps don’t plan our meals as we do during the week.
- Continue with your daily reflections. I have included 2 sheets for today and tomorrow – see below.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 6 & 7 – see below.
Day 5 Downloads
Day 6 Lesson
There are no lessons today.
Lesson 7 commences tomorrow.
Day 7 Lesson
How was Day 6 & 7?
I hope you had a lovely lesson break yesterday and you feel ready to jump into your next lesson.
I would like you to take a minute to reflect on the past week and explore the following questions:
- What has the challenge been like the first week? Did it differ from what you thought it was going to be before you started?
- What have you learned?
- What do you appreciate?
- What obstacles have come up, and are there ways to overcome them for next week?
Consider writing a short journal entry about these reflections to solidify your learning. Treat your first week’s reflections as a learning process, as a way to learn about yourself, your mind, mindfulness, resistance and more. I have provided you with Weekly Reflection Tracker for you to write down your answers.
Lesson – Day 7
The importance of protein for human health is significant and correspond with a long list of signs and symptoms that you may not be consuming in adequate quantities. These include:
- Skeletal muscle wasting, physical fatigue, weakness, headache or fainting.
- Low serum albumin and a reduction in concentrations of amino acids in blood plasma.
- Albumin is the most abundant protein in the blood plasma and is made by the liver. It helps keep fluid from leaking out of the blood vessels and acts as a carrier for homones, vitamins and minerals through the body.
- Endocrine imbalances such as reduced levels of thyroid hormones.
- Impaired anti-oxidative reactions, such as increased oxidative stress with advanced aging.
- Growth stunting in children and impaired development (including cognitive development).
- Intrauterine growth restriction if the maternal protein is not adequate. This may also have life-long negative consequences in postnatal growth, metabolism and health (e.g., increasing risk of obesity, infection, and cardiovascular abnormalities).
- Impairments in absorption, transport and storage of nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids).
- Impaired immune system responses, frequent infections, increased rates of morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases.
- Cardiovascular system issues.
- Tissue fluid retention (mainly swelling in the abdomen, leg, hands, and feet).
- Reduction in neurotransmitters production (brain chemicals), increased emotional disorders (e.g., moodiness, severe depression, and anxiety), irritability and insomnia.
- Loss of libido, reduced fertility, embryonic loss.
- Loss of calcium and bones, dental abnormalities
- Hair breakage and loss reduced production of pigments, the appearance of grey hair colour.
- Pale skin, dry or flaking skin, thinning of the skin.
If you are concerned about anything with your health, I encourage you to visit and discuss these concerns with a healthcare professional.
- Use the weekly reflection tracker to write down your thoughts from the first week of the challenge.
- Meal plan for the week – see weekly meal planner below.
- Download recipe ideas ready for Day 8 – see below.
Day 7 Downloads
Day 8 Lesson
How was Day 8?
If all went well last week, and you didn’t struggle with maintaining your protein target each day, keep going for this 2nd week.
If you have struggled, keep it the same as last week or make it even easier. For example, if you’ve just been eating a minimal amount of protein with each meal, then try increasing the amount this week, just a little. Or, if you’ve struggled with eating protein at a particular meal, put extra focus this week on getting it right. Never make too big an adjustment so that it becomes difficult and unsustainable for you.
A slow change process of making changes a little at a time helps overcome the mind’s resistance to change and feeling out of your comfort zone. Every day you make a change, irrespective of that change size, it gradually becomes your new normal.
Lesson – Day 8
Nutritionally, protein intake helps maintain the reservoir of amino acids by maintaining adequate lean muscle with 40% of the body’s protein found in our muscles.
Our skeletal muscles contain a reserve of amino acids and are the only storage depot that can manage significant losses without compromising our life. Therefore, healthy muscles help the body handle physical stress better and provide better health outcomes if you become sick or need surgery. If protein demands are not met daily for metabolic function, then the body will use and breakdown its reserves, which is in the form of our body muscle.
Research has shown that you are more likely to experience clinical issues if you are suffering from pre-operative protein undernourishment. Issues can include:
- General impairment of the body’s biological functions
- Immune system dysregulation
- Wound healing delays
- Organ dysfunction
- Higher overall mortality rates
- Higher risk of complications
- Prolonged hospitalisations
- Higher rates of readmission
If you have planned or recently undergone a surgical procedure, nutritional adequacy of protein will help ensure you can maintain body muscle. This maintenance of muscle at a level the body needs to ensure it has adequate stores will help compensate for the increase in nutritional demand by the body of surgical stress and provide a good foundation for the body to start healing.
- Use the daily reflection tracker to write down your thoughts for the day.
- Meal plan for the week – see weekly meal planner below.
- Download recipe ideas ready for Day 9 – see below.
Day 8 Downloads
Day 9 Lesson
How was Day 9?
There’s a part of our minds where we’re always looking for more – you want a better diet, you want a better body, you want to lose weight – and it’s true of many other things in our life.
As you reflect on your dietary changes today, notice where your mind is at – is it in the moment? or are you thinking about what you need to do in an hour? or thinking about things coming in the future? Let’s take a pause.
Stop and see the entire moment and practice accepting this moment as already enough. Being mindful of the moment is good practice to carry forward through your day and beyond this week. Also, mindfulness has many benefits, such as reducing rumination, stress, anxiety and improving our focus.
Lesson – Day 9
If you are training and exercising, then the biological demand for protein increases. Therefore, you need to ensure you are eating adequate protein.
Consuming protein immediately after exercise or when you are having a lengthy recovery period is essential to stimulate the muscle to grow and help the muscle repair and remodel. Remodelling muscle after exercise is the process that the body removes and replaces damaged proteins in the muscle with new ones. Exercise and diet provide the most significant impact on muscles to grow and repair in healthy adults.
After you have been training and exercising, you have a window of up to 20 minutes to consume protein to maximise the body’s ability to use the protein fully.
Research has shown that 10 grams of essential amino acids in an oral dose or the equivalent of 25 grams of quality and complete food protein sources such as milk products, meat or eggs have the most significant effect of stimulating protein synthesis after exercise.
Exercising has the added benefit to prevent muscle loss by:
- Increasing muscle protein synthesis rates.
- Keeping skeletal muscle sensitive to dietary amino acids and suppressing inflammatory chemicals that cause muscle breakdown.
However, protein balance will remain negative in the absence of not eating enough protein. What this means in practical terms is that you will likely experience muscle loss if you are training and not replacing protein because your body will be dipping into the stores of amino acids found in muscle. Therefore, it is essential that you are consuming enough protein from high-quality protein sources to support your muscles’ repair, remodelling and to avoid muscle loss.
- Use the daily reflection tracker to write down your thoughts for the day.
- Check your meal plan for the week. Check you planned your protein target for each day – see weekly meal planner below.
- Download recipe ideas ready for Day 10 – see below.
- Take a moment, sit down in a quiet place. Close your eyes, your thoughts and practice being in the present. Just start off with a minute and gradually increase our time of mindfullness when your feel comfortable. If you find your mind wandering, that’s OK, just bring your mind back to the present and focus on your breathing.
Day 9 Downloads
Day 10 Lesson
How was Day 10?
I have posted this information previously. However, as we are talking about the importance of protein for brain health, it is essential to remind everyone that there are many ways that we can look after our brains and mental health.
Looking After “Self” with Self-care.
We so easily forget about self-care and always prioritise those other more “important” things first. Here is a great article just to help remind everyone of the importance of looking after “self”, you can read the article by clicking on the text here Taking Better Care of Yourself with Self Care.
Below are the highlights of how you can incorporate self-care into your daily and weekly routines:
- Make sleep part of your self-care routine.
- Take care of yourself by taking care of your gut.
- Exercise daily as part of your self-care routine.
- Eat right for self-care.
- Say no to others and say yes to your self-care.
- Take a self-care trip.
- Take a self-care break by getting outside.
- Let a pet help you with your self-care.
- Take care of yourself by getting organised.
- Cook at home to care for yourself.
- Read a book on self-care for self-care.
- Schedule your self-care time, and guard that time with everything you have.
Lesson – Day 10
The brain and the long spider web-like neurons found in the brain are mostly made of fat. Neurons are the basic working unit of the brain. A neuron is designed to transmit messages to other nerve cells, muscles and gland cells.
The way that neurons communicate with each other is via proteins that we get from our diet. The proteins we eat in our diet are broken down into amino acids via digestion which the body uses to make chemical messengers in the brain, known as neurotransmitters. Therefore, protein is essential to produce our brain chemical messengers, neurotransmitters.
Protein deficiency or lack of dietary protein can result in a reduction in the production of neurotransmitters and an increase in emotional disorders such as:
- Severe depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
- Impaired cognitive development in children.
- Exacerbation in cognitive decline.
Several amino acids are critical precursors to essential brain neurotransmitters to help with mood regulations. These include:
- This essential amino acid converts to the neurotransmitter Serotonin, which influences mood, self-impulse control, calmness, sleep, intestinal movements & appetite.
- Tryptophan also is needed to make our sleep hormone melatonin.
- This essential amino acid converts to the neurotransmitter Dopamine, which helps with feelings of pleasure, reward, emotional responses, behaviour, memory, cognition, mood, attention, learning and motivation.
- Glutamine is semi-essential. When our body cannot make enough to keep up with demand under certain circumstances, extra is needed through diet or supplementation. Glutamine converts to a neurotransmitter Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), which helps induce relaxation, reduce stress, promote feelings of calmness and balance in mood, improve sleep, and relieve pain.
As we age, the body becomes less efficient at breaking protein down into amino acids during the digestive process. Many people need to ensure they are eating foods higher in protein to meet their daily body requirements.
To help you understand the importance of dietary protein for our brain health, I have included the diagram below we call the Neurotransmitter pathways. This diagram shows the amino acids we get from our protein foods, the brain chemicals they make and what these brain chemicals primary functions is concerning our brain and mood health.
***If you feel in a low mood or have felt in a low mood for a little bit, please speak with your health care professional***
- Use the daily reflection tracker to write down some ideas on what self care activities you can do daily and weekly. There is a space in the reflection tracker for you to write do your ideas.
- What meal have you planned? Perhaps check ahead for the next couple of days to see if you need any extra ingrediants or can pre-cook some meals ahead of time – see weekly meal planner below.
- Download recipe ideas ready for Day 11 – see below.
Day 10 Downloads
Day 11 Lesson
How was Day 11?
We are now approaching the weekend. Remember last week, and I discussed how stepping away from your usual routine, such as coming up to the weekend, can make being consistent more challenging?
Weekends can often mean we are working on a big project, taking kids to sports, travelling, busy-ness with your family or friends or trying to get jobs done around and in the house.
Today, let’s think ahead. Think about your weekend ahead on what no-fuss meals you can have on the ready on hand for the weekend whilst being mindful of your challenge target.
Lesson – Day 11
There can be a lot of confusion around the different types of protein supplements, so I thought I would break it down for you today.
In general, getting protein from high-quality real food sources should always be a priority however, there are times when you may need to look at a protein supplement to help bolster your daily intake.
Protein supplements can be beneficial as a quick and easy way to ensure you are replacing protein after exercise. For people who are not eating enough protein each day or for people who have been sick and need additional nutrition, protein supplements can be beneficial.
The common forms of protein supplements are:
1. Protein Concentrates.
These are protein supplements made from whole food sources that have had their protein extracted. The protein content of concentrates can be up to 80%.
2. Protein Isolates.
Protein isolate supplements have undergone additional processing to remove more fat and lactose, increasing the protein concentration, which can be as high as 95%.
3. Protein Hydrolysate.
These proteins are usually fast-acting, quickly absorbed and easier to digest. Hydrolysate proteins have been cut into smaller amino acid fragments, effectively isolating every amino acid.
The majority of protein supplements are powders and broadly fall into two main categories, animal or plant-based protein powders. I will look at the more common forms of protein supplements for both animal and plant-based.
Animal-Based Protein Powders
In general animal-based protein powders are known as complete proteins, due to the fact that they contain high amounts of all the 9 essential amino acids. To refresh your memory regarding amino acids, see Day 5 lesson.
1. Whey Protein
Whey protein is by far the most common protein powder supplement. It is derived from milk and is the liquid part of the cheesemaking process.
- Whey protein is quickly digested and absorbed rapidly. Whey protein is ideal to use post-training as it can play a significant role in promoting growth, remodelling and recovery of the muscles.
- Concentrate forms contain some lactose (milk sugar) which can be difficult for some people to digest if lactose intolerant.
- Isolate forms contain very little lactose and may be more suitable for those who are prone to digestive upsets with milk products.
2. Casein Protein
Casein is the most abundant protein found in milk and makes up to 80% of milk’s protein content.
- This protein is slower to digest and absorbed as it forms a gel-like consistency in the stomach.
- It is ideal to use at night-time due to its slower absorption to provide a sustained release of amino acids feeding the muscles over a more extended time.
- Casein protein supplements can be in micellar form, which is the natural form and slow-release, or a caseinate which is usually more highly processed into concentrated protein which is more rapidly digested than the micellar form.
3. Egg Whites
This protein supplement is less common that Whey or Casein.
- This protein is low in fat and carbohydrates.
- Egg white proteins stimulate muscle growth and promotes lean body mass.
- This is a good alternative for people that are lactose intolerant but want a protein powder with high levels of essential amino acids and rapidly absorbed by the body.
Plant-Based Protein Powder
Plant-based protein powders can be slower to digest than animal-based protein powders due to their higher fibre content. However, sometimes enzymes are added to help increase the digestibility of the powder.
Additionally, many of the plant proteins are low in some of the essential amino acids and are blended to help increase the quantities of essential amino acids.
1. Soy Protein
Soy-based protein powders are a good source of plant-based protein.
- It is a complete protein and contains the Branched Chain Amino Acid Leucine, needed for muscle synthesis. However, research has shown it to be less effective than a whey protein.
- It contains an anti-nutrient call phytates, which can make iron and zinc less available in the soy product.
2. Pea Protein
Pea based protein is a good option if you cannot consume soy-based products. It is usually made from the yellow split pea, which is a legume.
- It is hypoallergenic and contains iron.
- Pea protein contains all the essential amino acids, including the branch chains but is low in methionine.
- Research has shown that pea protein can promote fullness and assist in increasing muscle mass.
3. Rice Protein
Rice protein is made from ground up rice grains. The ground up grains are usually treated with enzymes to separate the protein from the rice starch.
- Rice protein is low allergenic and gluten-free.
- Protein supplements made from rice contains the nine essential amino acids but in lower quantities than animal-based protein powders and is very low in lysine.
- Beware that some rice protein can be contaminated with arsenic. Therefore, ensure you only purchase products that have been tested for arsenic concentrations.
Other Less Common Plant Protein Powders
4. Hemp Protein
- Hemp protein is not a complete protein as it is low in both the essential amino acids lysine and leucine.
5. Sacha Inchi Protein
Due to its origins and processing, this protein powder is more expensive.
- It is made from the Peruvian seed.
- It contains all essential amino acids except lysine.
- It is a good source of arginine, which is used by the body to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator (expands blood vessels) that improves circulation.
When buying protein powders, be mindful of what extra additives or filler ingredients they include in the powder, so check the ingredients. Also, many can be high in added sugars so again, check the nutrition panel and ingredient lists.
- Think ahead and plan your weekend meals.
– I have included the weekend meal planner in your downloads. There is extra space for you to plan out your meals and strategies in greater detail.
- Continue with your daily reflections – see below.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 12 – see below.
Day 11 Downloads
Day 12 Lesson
How Was Day 12?
We’re almost at the end of this 14 Day “Are You Eating Enough Protein” challenge.
I hope that the lessons and downloads I have provided you have given you a good head start understanding how vital protein is to your health.
You don’t need to keep track or measure out your protein every day because by now, you should have a good idea of what your daily protein target looks like in practical terms in each of your meals. However, I encourage you to continue and plan your weekly meals to help avoid the stress of not having anything in the fridge or freezer and knowing what you are going to eat takes a lot of stress out of having to decide meals on the go.
Every few days, just pause, reflect and check in to see that everything is still going well. Keep using one of the reflection trackers or just jot down your reflections in a notebook to assess whether you have any obstacles, need to make adjustments or learned anything new.
Stay focused this weekend, and remember your self-care activities!
Day 12 – Lesson
Many people would have probably heard, read or told that “protein is bad for your kidneys”. I would like to unpack this a little bit to reassure you that this is not the case for healthy people. It is untrue and the fact is, there is no scientific evidence that dietary protein is bad for your kidneys for healthy people.
The assumption that protein is bad for your kidneys dates back to the early 1980s and is known as the Brenner Hypothesis. Just to remind you, a hypothesis is only an assumption and must be tested to see if it is true.
The Brenner hypothesis is named after a researcher by the name of Barry Brenner. The hypothesis stems from the fact that a by-product waste urea is produced when we eat protein. The body has to get rid of urea, and this is via the kidneys. Brenners line of thinking was that the more protein we eat, the more urea is produced and the kidneys need to work to filter out the urea. Therefore Brenner theorised that this extra workload on the kidneys must be the cause of kidney damage.
The Brenner theory is majorly flawed. Brenner only looked at research based on animals and in people who had already been diagnosed with kidney disease. In science, you cannot extend any of these findings to healthy people as the research did not include healthy people.
More importantly, to remember that a hypothesis is only true if tested, and the results confirm the hypothesis. The Brenner hypothesis has been tested and reviewed numerous times since it was theorised back in the early 1980s and has never been proved correct in healthy humans.
Research suggests that any concern with renal function changes due to dietary protein is a normal healthy adaptive function of the kidneys, similar to what happens to many other systems and organs of the body. Think about when you exercise. Your heart beats faster to pump more blood and oxygen around the body to compensate for increased exercise requirement. Your body will also produce more waste in the form of carbon dioxide. To compensate for this, when you exercise, you breath heavier to get rid of the extra carbon dioxide waste, this is a healthy adaptive process by the body.
One of the reasons why many health professions still believe that protein is bad for your kidneys arises from people that have already established chronic kidney disease.
People who have chronic kidney disease can benefit from lower protein diets, therefore the incorrect logic is applied to healthy people that protein must have been the cause of their kidney damage. Once again, this is incorrect, and for those with already established kidney disease, it is VERY unlikely protein was the cause. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support that protein causes kidney damage in healthy people based on people with established chronic kidney disease.
A research paper outlining the risk factors for chronic kidney disease listed 13 risks, and protein was not one. The 13 risk factors for chronic kidney disease include:
- Family history
- Low Birth Weight
- Socioeconomic status
- Nephrotoxins – such as alcohol and recreation drugs
- Acute Injury to the Kidneys
If you have any concerns concerning your kidneys, please speak to your health care professional.
- Remember to use the weekend meal planner to help you focus and strategise your weekend nutrition targets.
- Continue with your daily reflections:
I have included 2 sheets for today and tomorrow. The tomorrow daily reflection tracker includes a section for you to write down what you did for self care – see below.
- Download recipes ideas ready for Day 13 & 14 – see below.
Day 13 is a Lesson Free Day.
Day 12 Downloads
Day 13 Lesson
There are no lessons today.
The final lesson is tomorrow.
Day 14 Final Lesson
How was Day 14?
Today is the final lesson! The ultimate aim of this 14 day “Are you eating enough protein” challenge was to:
- Promote healthy change in your daily nutrition.
- Highlight the health importance of protein.
- To dispel persistent myths surrounding protein, such as in our Day 12 Lesson.
- To assist you with the processes of elevating your day-to-day diet and how much protein you are eating each day.
- Guide you to better whole real food sources of protein and day to day meal planning.
- Help you with the learning process by giving you mindset activities such as daily reflections.
- Encouraging you with daily motivations.
Making lasting changes can be challenging and sticking to these changes can be more difficult. To help improve your chances of success, we can look at the SMART principle concerning this 14-day “Have you been eating enough protein” challenge:
- Set a Specific goal – What is your daily protein target?
- Measure your progress – Track your protein intake daily.
- Make it Achievable – Start with a minimum daily intake of protein.
- Be Realistic – Focus on what you can achieve. If you are increasing your daily protein, look at doing it one meal at a time, i.e., start with breakfast or one day a week and gradually increase from there.
- Set a Time – Pick a suitable date to start increasing your protein intake and set aside time each day and week to review, plan and adjust your progress.
Today’s reflection diary is designed to help you breakdown you thoughts on how the challenge has been for you over the past 14 days.
Lesson – Day 14
The role protein plays in weight management and its benefit for weight loss has been established for many years. Many studies have examined if higher protein diets lead to better weight loss and weight management than lower protein diets, and each time the higher protein diets were more effective.
The key benefits of higher protein diets to help weight loss and weight management include:
- Appetite control – protein makes you feel fuller for longer by increasing the hormones that control your appetite.
- Improves metabolism – it takes a lot of energy for your body to digest and absorb proteins therefore, it can help burn more calories. Also, if people go on a low-calorie diet, their body metabolism will slow down to preserve energy. Eating more protein can help mitigate the reduction in metabolic rate as weight loss occurs.
- Reduces food cravings – this helps prevent snacking and constant grazing.
- Better body composition – promotes lean muscle growth and more significant fat loss.
- Overall reduced food energy intake – increasing protein in each meal reduces hunger, naturally leading to an overall reduction in food energy intake.
In terms of optimal protein intakes to achieve successful weight loss and weight management, research supports dietary protein requirements ranging from 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilo of body weight. Research suggests that meal specific protein intakes may also optimise weight loss and management by consuming a minimum of 25 – 30 grams of protein per main meal.
Additionally, when increased protein intakes are combined with resistance training to increase muscle mass and strength (muscle is the highest metabolically active tissue in the body), weight loss and management are improved.
I provided a Calculating Protein guide in my pre-lesson downloads, including a suggested focus on distributing protein intake evenly across all meals. The primary reason for an even distribution of protein across meals is due to the evidence showing this stimulates muscle growth more effectively and evenly over 24 hours. In Australia, people do not distribute their protein intake evenly and consume most of their dietary protein in the evening, with the least amount of protein for breakfast and slightly more for lunch.
Additionally, ensuring you have a protein-rich breakfast or at the first meal after your night fast (many people practice intermittent fasting) can help weight loss and weight management by reducing food cravings and appetites.
If you need any advice regarding weight loss or management, please speak with your health care professional.
- Today, take a moment to reflect on the past 14 days and complete the final “My Challenge Reflections”.
- Download the weekly menu planner and start the new week putting into practice everything you have learnt over the past 2 weeks.
- To help get you started after the final lesson today, I have included an extra bonus day of recipe ideas.
- I will keep the 14 days of lessons and downloads on my website so you can come back to it as many times as you need.