Protein is not just for bodybuilders
In fact everybody can benefit from eating more protein in their diet.
However even with the level of information available today many people continue to be confused and unsure about .
how much you need to eat, what foods sources should you get your protein from and whether eating more protein can cause health problems
In this article, I want to quickly address these topics so you have a clearer understanding and give a few more reasons why I believe eating more protein is a smart move for you to take.
The Functions of Protein
Proteins are molecules comprised of amino acids. The amino acids are linked together through chemical bonds in long chains to form a three dimensional structure that are used in a variety of functions within the body.
The combination of amino acids and sequence determines its structure and the role it is required to carry out.
The amino acids that make up protein fall into two main categories, non-essential and essential.
Non-essential amino acids come from the body, while essential amino acids are in food and/or amino acid supplements.
Protein has a number of roles keeping our body healthy and working well. In general, proteins help with the management of bones, skin, muscle, hair, other cell tissues and organs.
They also assist with cell regeneration and are involved in the creation and movement of important molecules around the body.
Without adequate levels of protein are bodies will not cope or function at an optimal level.
How much protein do you need?
There are so many figures thrown about it is difficult to know exactly how much protein you need to eat on a daily basis. In reality for most people who are exercising regularly and looking to build some muscle or lose weight a baseline target of 1-1.2g per pound of bodyweight is a good starting point.
If you´re an athlete or serious bodybuilder and want to build more muscle mass, this figure may need to go higher.
Likewise, if you are trying to cut down to low body fat levels then you may need to increase your protein intake further for a short time until you hit your target.
As you get older maintaining muscle mass, bone health and functionality is very important and protein intake should reflect this. Studies are now concluding that recommend protein intake for the elderly should increase to between 1.6-1.8g per kilo of bodyweight.
What Foods are high in Protein?
Many foods include some level of protein but to hit your daily protein targets you need a variety of foods that deliver the highest and best sources of amino acids. Here is a list of foods that come under this category.
|Cheese low fat||231.00||17.60||7.00||10.60|
|Goats cheese semi soft||364.00||29.84||2.54||21.58|
This is not a complete list as there other sources of fish, dairy and nuts that contain a decent amount of protein. Nevertheless, I feel this list of high protein foods covers most of the ones that are readily available and popular to eat.
What protein to eat if you are vegetarian.
If you are vegetarian, then getting enough protein can be more of a challenge. This is simply because vegetarian based foods are lower in amino acids than animal sources.
If you want to increase your protein intake focus on grains such as oatmeal, rice and quinoa. Eat more legumes and increase your consumption of high protein vegetables such as kale, spinach, sprouts and peas.
Using good quality vegetarian protein powder supplements can help reach your protein goals.
A rice or pea based protein supplement is probably your best choice just because they have a superior amino profile then other vegetarian protein powders.
A number of brands selling vegetarian protein powders are now available but it´s worth doing your own research to find one that fits your need and budget.
Do you need protein supplements?
Talking of protein powders leads me on nicely to whether you need to take a protein supplement if your diet is animal based.
The quick answer is no if you are eating enough good protein sources throughout the day.
However, supplements do offer advantages depending on your goals and schedule.
The first benefit is that they are convenient.
Some days we don´t always have time or feel like preparing a high protein meal so being able to just knock up a quick shake and drink it down can be a real help.
Secondly if you are doing weight training and want to build or at least maintain muscle mass then protein supplements such as Whey have been proven to help maximize lean muscle mass.
This is because they are high in essential amino acids and absorb quickly into the body, especially useful after resistance workouts when the muscle cells require protein to recover and regenerate.
Now you have a basic understanding of what proteins actually do, how much you need to be eating and what the best sources of protein to eat.
All we need now is to understand the benefits of eating all this extra protein.
Is it really worth it?
If you are still unsure here are six reasons that will help make up your mind.
Reason 1. More Muscle .
Let´s start with the main attraction of building and maintain lean muscle. We have already discussed why protein intake is important for building muscle but what are the benefits of having more muscle.
Apart from the fact you look better with more muscle on your body, there are also many health benefits associated with maintaining muscle mass especially as you get older.
These include better insulin sensitivity, the ability to recover better from serious illness and disease, better functionality, less chance of weight gain and the list goes on.
Reason 2. More Strength.
In tandem with helping build muscle, increasing protein consumption will lead to greater strength gains from your training.
In this study on post menopausal women one group where asked to consume over 1.2 g or protein per kilo of body weight every day while another group where asked to take between 0.8g -1.1g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. At the end of the study, the higher protein group had higher muscle strength and lower body fat than the other group.
In another study on adult men and women, they concluded that eating adequate protein levels might help to preserve strength and muscle mass in adult men and women.
Reason 3. Reduced Hunger Cravings
High-protein diets have long had a relationship with weight management and one of the main reasons is higher protein meals can increase satiety and decrease the need to eat after meals.
For example this study comparing high protein meals to normal protein meals they concluded that the high protein meals did produce more satiety although it didn´t state the exact amounts of protein given in each meal.
In another study, a group of healthy young women received a high protein based snack or a high fat based snack to monitor appetite control, satiety and subsequent food intake. The study found that compared to high fat snacks, high protein snacks were much more effective for controlling appetite, increasing feelings of satiety and reducing any further calorie intake.
Reason 4. Helps you lose body fat when dieting.
If you are trying to lose body fat increasing protein intake can help you. One reason why is due to the effect of high protein intake on helping maintain muscle mass while restricting calories. The more muscle mass you have the more energy you burn at rest so being able to keep muscle when dieting will increase overall energy output especially when combined with exercise.
The problem I see often is the scenario where people are losing both body fat and muscle when on a diet and wondering why fat loss has slowed or stopped. The higher your metabolic rate through maintaining muscle mass the easier and faster you will lose body fat when in a negative energy deficit.
Reason 5 Helps recover quickly from injury.
A big concern in trying to stay fit and make progress is avoiding injury. With a higher protein diet connective tissues and tendons are strengthened the same as muscle due to the increase in protein synthesis. This reduces the risk of injury and the seriousness of any injury.
If you are out injured and unable to move properly then maintaining a high amino acid intake has been found to reduce muscle atrophy and therefore decrease the time it takes to get back to original levels once your injury has been treated.
Reason 6 – Helps Lower Blood Pressure
If you suffer with hypertension or want to avoid suffering with this condition, in the future then increasing your protein intake may be of assistance.
A study concluded this year monitored a group of adults aged 30-54 for over 11 years with regard to developing high blood pressure. What they found was that people on higher protein diets were associated with less risk of developing higher blood pressure (40% less chance) and that both animal and plant proteins lowered blood pressure and reduced high blood pressure significantly.
Summing up the benefits of a high protein diet.
Here are the main points from the article
Get your protein from a variety of sources both animal and plant.
Start by eating 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
If you are on calorie restricted diet increase to 1.2g per pound of bodyweight
Eating protein produces oxidative stress so counter this by consuming many foods rich in antioxidants
Protein can increase inflammation in the gut so include foods with lots of fibre to increase anti inflammatory gut bacteria and consider using a good quality probiotic.
The reasons given here are as good as any for increasing the level of protein in your diet and there are more I could have mentioned – better sleep, improved cognition and enhanced bone health.
Eating more protein in your diet can also contribute to better blood sugar management, an increase in insulin sensitivity and less risk from becoming diabetic.
If you want the highest quality of life both now and in the future the benefits laid out in this article are critical elements in achieving this.
This is why I believe the Paleo diet is a great choice for your nutrition plan. With an emphasis on all types of protein foods apart from dairy you will naturally increase your protein intake and therefore enjoy the benefits laid out in this article.
If you want to get started with the Paleo diet or just want to kick-start a new health regime I highly recommend using our free 7 day Paleo diet and fitness plan and see how you feel after this.