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What is Protein and how does it aid muscle growth?

By Mark Surdut APD AN

Protein foods are the building blocks of muscle development and growth. Before we discuss a range of protein sources, let’s first grab an understanding of some of the basics of muscle growth.

The amount of protein one needs in a day varies, and typically the athlete needs more than the lightly active bloke doing a little training a few days a week. More protein isn’t necessarily better. Too much protein places a stressful load on some of our vital organs like kidneys. Some gentleman, with kidney function trouble, needs to be rather careful not to overdo things. We only have one skeleton, 1 liver, 2 kidneys – So take good care of them.

Protein intake

More important than the total amount of protein eaten in a day, maybe how it is distributed – You see the body can only manage so much at one time. It makes sense to spread the protein out over a few meals/episodes a day – for example, 3 or 4 times, particularly if you’re aiming at building more muscle.

What are the food sources of Protein?

Red meat

Meat is a great source of protein and other nutrients like iron and B Vitamins and more. It tends to be a little harder to digest for some of us, as it’s a tougher substance to break down. Processed meats, like cold cuts, should be limited as they appear to be rather unhealthy. Steak, chops, lean mince are some better examples.


Chicken meat is thought of as easier to break down than red meat and often a little leaner too, but that does depend on the portion (and whether you choose to eat that fatty skin or not). Chicken and meat supply similar amounts of protein: About 20g protein in 100g of flesh.


Seafood is not only a great source of protein but softer on the digestive system and contains some other super nutrients too, like omega 3 fatty acids, which may even help with recovery, given its anti-inflammatory properties.


Dairy is very much a personal choice – some like it, some don’t. Some find it bloating or not agreeable in other ways. One glass of milk gives you about 10g of protein. A good slice of cheese may give you a similar amount. Some popular brands of yoghurt now provide 15g protein in a small pot, which can be useful too.

Soy (eg. Tofu)

Tofu is a great source of protein and makes it easier for our vegans to get in protein too. It has a similar protein profile to chicken – yes it does! It is often a good source of calcium as well. About 150g slab of tofu will give you about 20 grams of protein. Not a bad deal. The author loves the stuff, stir-fried with seasonal veggies.

Legumes (eg. Lentils)

These provide a source of protein too and a great source of gut-helpful fibre and other nutrients. Around 1.5 cups of cooked lentils provide 20g of protein.

Get the recipe for Steak with Beetroot, Walnut and Feta Salad

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