Protein vs Carb Snacks
High protein snacks over high carb snacks
Everyone loves a snack, the issue with snacking is that most people reach for a high carbohydrate option over a high protein option.
The issue with this is that a high carbohydrate option will send your blood sugars on a roller-coaster ride. You see, metabolically when we reach for a high carbohydrate option, we get a surge of glucose in our blood. This forces our bodies to produce high amounts of the hormone insulin to help drive glucose from our blood into our cells where it is used for energy. High spikes of insulin eventually lead to a dip in blood sugar way below what it normally should be. This leads to what we often refer to as a ‘afternoon crash’. This results in increased hunger shortly after you snack, increased carbohydrate/sugar cravings, brain fog and fatigue for the rest of the day.
To ensure our blood sugar stays stable/balanced so we avoid this spike and crash we need to consume protein (in all our meals, not just snacks). This is because protein’s role in glucose absorption in your body is to slow down or blunt the release of glucose into your bloodstream. protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which means when we eat it we feel satisfied and stay fuller for longer.
When a patient comes to me with a high blood sugar issue, I will often have them increase their protein intake overall throughout the day and particularly focus on a high protein breakfast (usually 30grams) because that tends to really set the tone for the day and improve blood sugar regulation throughout the day.
How much protein should we be eating throughout the day
According to the Australian Nutrient Reference values, the recommend daily intake (RDI) for a male aged 19 and above is 64-81 grams of protein and for a female aged 19 and above the RDI is between 46 and 57 grams of protein a day. These numbers are averaging less than one gram of protein per kg of body weight per day.
The issue with this is that RDI’s are a very general recommendation and were developed to represent a minimum amount of a nutrient we need to not die (or get sick), not to thrive optimally.
You need to consider reasons as to why you might need more protein, such as:
- Training: Protein builds muscle and it helps a lot with recovery and performance, especially post workout
- Chronic illness: muscle wasting can be a problem in people who are chronically ill therefore higher protein intake is necessary
- The elderly: Protein Requirements for Elderly Adults. Experts in the field of protein and aging recommend a protein intake between 1.2 and 2.0 g/kg/day or higher for elderly adults
- High stress: protein breakdown is a normal response to stress therefore extra protein is needed.
My recommendation is 1.5-2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day.
What protein is best?
Whole foods are always best
While the overall protein intake each day is important, its also important to consider the nutrients we are getting from the protein source.
I always recommend getting protein from whole food sources whenever possible, this means the less processed the better. This is how we are meant to get nutrients. Whole foods have several other synergistic nutrients like beneficial cofactors and enzymes that help us to digest and absorb whatever nutrient we need.
My favourite protein source is meat. Not only is meat the most bioavailable source of protein and B12 and iron, but by serving size, calorie for calorie, and by volume, it’s also incredibly efficient at delivering nutrition in an easily digestible form. That is why I love chief beef bars.
More Protein, Better Protein
Clinical Evidence And Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32699189/
Protein Consumption and the Elderly: What Is the Optimal Level of Intake?