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How much protein do we need?

Shakes, syrups, flavor powders, bars – there’s a booming market for protein supplements. How necessary are these supplements really, and what should optimal protein consumption look like?

Prof. Dr. Dr. Karin Michels is the Director of the Institute for Prevention and Cancer Epidemiology at the Medical Center - University of Freiburg. In the following interview, she talks about protein consumption.


What does our body need proteins for?

The human body needs protein for very different reasons. Firstly, proteins play a central role in building and repairing tissue, including muscles, skin and organs. Second, proteins are necessary to form enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions in the body and regulate metabolism. Third, proteins contribute to immune function by producing antibodies and helping to defend against pathogens. Finally, proteins are also an important source of energy and serve as a reserve when other nutrients are insufficient. To sum it up, protein is essential for the growth, maintenance and proper function of the human body.

What rules are there for optimal protein consumption?

The average person consumes around 50 to 65 percent of their daily calorie intake in the form of carbohydrates, 30 to 35 percent in the form of fats and 15 to 20 percent in the form of proteins. According to latest findings, an optimal diet should contain approximately one third of each component. This means that the consumption of carbohydrates in our society should decrease, but the amount of protein should increase slightly. In this way, diseases such as diabetes and obesity can be counteracted.

Are protein supplements a way to increase your protein intake?

Protein supplements such as shakes or bars can help to increase your protein intake and meet your needs, but there is one major problem: they often contain high levels of sugar and other unhealthy additives. This added sugar can negate the benefits of protein intake and even lead to health problems such as insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Excessive sugar consumption can also destabilize blood sugar levels and lead to cravings, which is counterproductive when trying to follow a healthy diet. It is therefore important to be very careful when choosing protein supplements. Consumers should check the ingredient list carefully and look for products that are sugar-free.

What is the healthiest way to meet your protein needs?

Protein requirements should primarily be met through plant-based foods such as pulses and nuts. Fish is also a good source of protein. Meat does contain protein, but red meat in particular is classified as a carcinogenic substance, as it promotes the development of colon cancer and can also promote diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The consumption of red meat should therefore be kept to a minimum. With a balanced diet, it is therefore possible to cover your protein requirements without any major problems. Substitute products can be a way for athletes to cover their increased requirements on some days without too much effort. One source that can be easily utilized by the body is whey protein. These are proteins that remain in the whey during cheese production.


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