Protein Quality

There are a few things that are common as one begins to pay more attention to their nutrition:

  • They start becoming more familiar with the macronutrients– protein, carbohydrates, and fats– and the impact they have on our overall health, performance, and longevity. 

  • With that increased understanding, they start paying attention to protein, the main building block for muscle synthesis. Oftentimes, people realize they don’t eat enough protein each day. 

    • Note: protein intake varies from person to person, based on weight, lean body mass, genetics, etc. But one easy general rule of thumb you can start off with is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 158 lbs, then you should start with consuming 155-160 grams of protein per day. 

  • Then, once understanding increases, the questions start piling up:

    • How should I space out my protein intake? 

    • How much protein should I have per meal?

    • Should I eat protein before or after working out?

    • What are the best sources of protein?

    • How many protein shakes should I have? Is there a limit?

    • Are protein bars good?

    • Which meats are lean sources of protein? Which ones have more fat? Which is better?

    • Should I take amino acid supplements to complement protein synthesis?

The questions are warranted– there are a lot of intricacies to nutrition. Once we become familiar with one area, such as macronutrients or general guidelines of food intake, we realize there are more and more details to consider. In this blog, I want to discuss protein quality.

Protein Quality

There is such a thing called “protein quality scores”, which assigns a value to protein sources and quantifies it. Scores include: biological value, protein efficiency ratio, net protein utilization, and the protein digestibility corrected amino acid (PDCAA) score. 

How important is protein quality?

If you were to look at a list of protein quality for various sources, what you will notice is that meats tend to have higher scores, and sources like wheat gluten, peanuts, and plant-based proteins trend on the lower end. 
So… you should avoid lower protein quality scores and go for sources with better scores, right? It depends which literature/research your reading, as there is conflicting data on this. However, it has been supported and proven that protein quality scores are increasingly important if your protein intake is low. The higher protein quality sources provide more essential amino acids which allow for more protein synthesis and thus, increased efficiency in muscle building. However, if your protein intake is on the higher end of the spectrum, the protein quality scores aren’t as important. 

In summary, eat enough protein. If you eat enough, then you don’t have to worry about the quality metrics as much.