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Quiz: Myths and facts about protein

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Men need more protein than women.

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Men need more protein than women.

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In the UK, the reference nutrient intake (RNI) is set at 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for adults. Individual requirements are related to your age, gender, level of physical activity and state of health. All other things being equal, men need more protein than women. The RNI for an average adult man aged 19-50 years old is 55.5 grams per day, and for adult women 45 grams.

Good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs and beans. Vegans and vegetarians can get all the amino acids they need by combining plant sources of protein, such as pulses and cereals.

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What percentage of your daily calories should come from protein?

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What percentage of your daily calories should come from protein?

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In general, it's recommended that 10% to 15% of your daily calories come from protein to maintain a balanced diet.

Athletes need more protein than non-athletes.

Athletes need more protein than non-athletes.

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To some degree, your level of physical activity influences the amount of protein your body needs. Research suggests athletes may need more than the reference nutrient intake (RNI) of 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Athletes may need slightly more than that - about one to two grams per kilo per day to repair and rebuild their muscles.

Which of the following has more protein?

Which of the following has more protein?

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All of the above are good sources of protein, but beef and other meats tend to be particularly protein-packed. However, animal-based proteins also tend to be high in saturated fat, too much of which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. When choosing red meats as a source of protein, stick with the leanest cuts and choose moderate sizes. Red and processed red meats in particular have been linked to a higher risk of bowel cancer. Government scientific advisers say if you eat around 90g or more (cooked weight) a day of red and processed meat it is a good idea to cut back to 70g.

Why do we need protein?

Why do we need protein?

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Protein is an essential part of every cell of your body, comprising about 15% of your body weight. It has a wide variety of uses and functions, including providing energy, helping to build the structural skeleton of cells, moving molecules from one place to another, breaking down toxins and repairing bones and muscles.

A high-protein diet can help you lose weight.

A high-protein diet can help you lose weight.

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High-protein diets are not a magic bullet for weight loss, but studies have shown that diets that substitute protein for carbohydrates may help people lose weight. High-protein foods move more slowly through the digestive system, helping you to feel full for a longer period of time after a meal. And your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does digesting carbs. Also, protein can help you avoid peaks and troughs of hunger by keeping your blood sugar levels relatively steady.

 

However, experts caution that more research is needed.  The long-term effects of a high-protein, low-carb diet are unknown.

It can be unhealthy to eat too much protein.

It can be unhealthy to eat too much protein.

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Most of the time, eating more protein than you need is not a problem. But if you eat too much protein, you're taking in unnecessary calories, which can lead to weight gain. And if the protein is from meat or other animal sources, it might be high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol levels and a risk of heart disease.

Too much protein can also cause problems for people with specific medical conditions, such as kidney disease, and diabetes.

A protein is said to be "complete" if it includes:

A protein is said to be "complete" if it includes:

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Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are about 20 different amino acids and your body needs all of them. But it can only make some - others have to come from your diet. These are known as indispensable or "essential" amino acids because it's "essential" that they come from your diet. A "complete" protein includes all nine essential amino acids. Animal-based foods (eggs, cheese, meat) tend to have complete proteins.

"Incomplete" protein sources are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Beans and cereals are considered good sources of protein but are incomplete protein sources as they contain lower amounts of some essential amino acids.

Women should avoid soya protein.

Women should avoid soya protein.

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There have been some concerns about whether the presence in soya of isoflavones, a plant-made oestrogen or "phytoestrogen," should cause women to be wary of soya. However, experts say that as part of a balanced diet, soya protein can make a good low-fat alternative to high-fat, animal-based proteins for both women and men.

Many other health claims about soya suggest an inconclusive mix of benefits and risks. The key, as in so many things, is moderation. 

Soya comes from the soybean and can be found in soya milk, tempeh, edamame and tofu. Whole soya provides all the essential amino acids, just like protein from animal sources. It is also used as a meat substitute in some vegetarian dishes.

Our bodies are very good at storing protein to use later.

Our bodies are very good at storing protein to use later.

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The human body does not store proteins the way that it stores carbohydrates and fats. For this reason, and because the body is continuously breaking down and replacing proteins, you need a steady supply of protein every day.

You can help your body build muscle by consuming protein soon after a workout.

You can help your body build muscle by consuming protein soon after a workout.

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Protein is an important building block of muscles and can help repair them after a workout. Multiple studies show that consuming high-protein foods or beverages soon after exercise helps build and restore muscle. However, protein is only part of the equation. While protein provides amino acids for muscle growth and recovery, the most important nutrient for muscle strengthening is carbohydrates.

Though a good source of protein, whey protein is high in fat.

Though a good source of protein, whey protein is high in fat.

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Whey protein is popular in part because it’s low in fat. A by-product of cheese production, whey contains proteins that are highly digestible and relatively complete. Some studies suggest whey protein may also have antioxidant and immune-supporting properties, although more research is needed.

Which of the following are in the protein food group of the NHS Eatwell Guide?

Which of the following are in the protein food group of the NHS Eatwell Guide?

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The NHS Eatwell Guide includes as protein all foods from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soya products, nuts and seeds. Beans and peas are also part of the vegetable group.

Most people in the UK do not eat enough protein.

Most people in the UK do not eat enough protein.

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Most of us get all the protein we need from our diet. In fact, most get more than enough. Groups that may not get enough protein include vegetarians - especially vegans - because plant-based proteins can have low amounts of some essential amino acids. Older adults may also need to make sure they get enough protein, because it becomes particularly crucial and more difficult, to maintain muscle as we get older.

It's possible to get complete protein by combining two or more incomplete sources.

It's possible to get complete protein by combining two or more incomplete sources.

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Incomplete proteins are low in one or more essential amino acids, but they can still be important sources of protein, especially if you combine proteins that are "complementary" - that is, when eaten together, they supply all nine essential amino acids. Rice and beans, or peanut butter and wholemeal bread, are examples. Strict vegetarians should pay special attention to which protein combinations are complementary.

 

It was once thought that you had to eat complementary proteins as part of the same meal for your body to process them as a complete protein. More recent research suggests you only need to eat them on the same day.

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Which of the following could be a sign you're not getting enough protein?

Which of the following could be a sign you're not getting enough protein?

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Most people don't need to worry about eating enough protein. However, strict vegetarians and older people in particular should be careful to monitor themselves for warning signs of protein deficiency. These include recent weight loss, muscle fatigue and a decline in muscle strength.

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