Hello, Health

No, your diet doesn't have enough protein

Good news is that you are losing weight. But the bad news is that it's your muscle weight.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   27-07-2019
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I recently attended a conference where some very alarming data about the muscle health of corporate staff across India was shared.

Now I have always known, and often written about just how terrible the protein quotient of the food is for most of us, Indians, but even then, this data shook me.

As part of a Muscle health Sensitisation Workshop programme, conducted by Danone India and Arogya world and InBody, the muscle health of over 1,800 corporate employees across Noida, Hyderabad and Bangalore was analysed.

The body composition analysis using InBody machines found that out of a total of 1,868 corporate respondents, 1,125 (60.22%) had lower protein levels, compared to the globally accepted standards. That means six out of 10 Indian working professionals have poor muscle health. That’s a huge number!

protein_072619074222.jpgSix out of 10 Indian working professionals have poor muscle health. (Photo: Reuters)

And as Himanshu Bakshi, managing director, Danone India, rightly pointed out during the conference, poor muscle health affects not just the individual but has an impact on the corporate productivity and eventually snowballs into affecting the nation’s productivity too.

Going by this, it seems poor muscle health will be a major concern for the country soon and might surpass other lifestyle diseases in terms of negative impact.

Now, protein is essential because everything in our body — from haemoglobin to enzymes, hormones, antibodies, bones — is made up of amino acids — the building blocks of protein.

In fact, every function of all our cells (and thus organs and the whole body) is literally controlled by proteins.

Which is why eating enough protein-rich food every day is mandatory. 

But obviously, most of us aren’t doing that.

These figures definitely prove that there is a serious need to start a serious conversation around muscle health and the importance of having enough protein for achieving it.

The conversation needs to move beyond gyms and sports and brought to the mainstream by making it relevant for every person who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle.

And what better time than during the Protein Week 2019 (celebrated annually between July 24 and 30).

Another point of concern that Kenneth Cha, managing director, InBody India, pointed out is that usually when people try to lose weight (to get fit), they tend to become unhealthier as they end up losing protein from their body instead of fat.

legume_072619074240.jpgYou need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. (Photo: Reuters)

Out of 746 women respondents from the corporates, 344 women (46.11%) were in normal weight category (BMI).

But when checked for percentage body fat, 702 women (94%) had excess body fat (28% and higher percentage body fat) tending toward obesity.

It is important to keep a check on what one is losing — is it body fat (which is healthy) or body protein (which is unhealthy)?

Skinny obese is a very unhealthy state to be in.

Sumathi Rao, country manager, Arogya World, said that the solution lies in ensuring plating enough good quality protein, exercising regularly and keeping a regular check on one’s health (and not just weight).

I agree completely!

So what’s enough? 

The right amount of protein for a person depends on many factors — their activity levels, age, muscle mass, physique goals and the current state of health.

Usually, a common formula used to ascertain the daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight

So an average man weighing 70 kg will need 56 gm protein per day and a woman weighing 60 kg will need about 48 gm of protein per day.

Another important factor to understand here is the quality of the protein.

Amino acids are of two types: essential and non-essential amino acids.

There are a total of 22 types and 9 of them are essential amino acids. Our body cannot make these its own. We need to supply them through food (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine).

While there is no doubt that non-vegetarian products (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) score higher on the quality of protein index (as they supply all of the essential amino acids, whereas vegetarian sources tend to have some missing), it is a big myth that those who eat a vegetarian diet cannot meet their protein needs.

Yes, it needs a concerted effort.

broccoli_072619074303.jpgIf you are a vegetarian, then you have to make an extra effort to get enough protein from your food. (Photo: Reuters)

Vegetarians need to get all their essential amino acids by eating a wide variety and making smart pairs by combining vegetables with grains, legumes or seeds.

Unfortunately, the diets of most people (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) tend to be predominantly low in quality protein. When this protein requirement is not being met through food, supplementation with a high-quality protein source might be necessary to help bridge the dietary gap.

It’s time to take protein seriously.

After all, the lack of it could be preventing you from leading your most efficient life — both personal and professional.

Not being able to play football with your child just because you are fatigued is a huge point of concern too.

Also Read: Girls get fewer dairy products than boys: India is facing a protein emergency

Writer

Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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