Found throughout the body, protein is an essential building block for bones, muscles, skin and practically every body part. It’s found in a huge range of foods and can be supplemented easily and safely alongside a balanced diet with powders, shakes, bars and other products.
That said, most people fail to take in enough protein every day.
So, how much is enough? Well, the recommended daily allowance of protein is 46 grams per day for women over the age of 19, and 56 grams for men over 19 years of age. Put another way, you should eat 8g of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. This is a good rule of thumb if you are strength training and you may need to take on more depending on your training regime.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the reasons why protein is such an important food group that everybody should include in their diet.
1. Increases Muscle Mass
One really effective way to stay lean and keep weight in check is to increase muscle mass. That’s why a weight loss diet should always include plenty of protein, especially if you are working out. To build muscle, you need protein to facilitate the process. Whether you are on a low-carb diet, low-fat diet or calorie-controlled diet, protein should always feature.
2. Suppresses the Appetite
If you want to keep your hunger pangs in check, eat more protein. Studies show that protein is very filling, helping to regulate the appetite and stop you from snacking during the day. A breakfast that contains eggs, for example, is much more likely to keep hunger pangs at bay and blood sugar balanced than a bowl of sugary cereal. Add some good fats like avocado and you’ll make your breakfast even more filling.
3. Helps to Boost Metabolism and Weight Loss
When combined with exercise, protein can help to improve muscle mass which in turn improves your metabolism. It can also increase your fat-burn rate by raising the body temperature through a process known as thermogenesis. Combine more eating more protein with drinking more water and you can increase your metabolism even more.
A recent study showed that dieters who ate twice the recommended daily intake of protein, while also consuming fewer calories, lost more fat than those who kept their protein intake the same. The group that ate their usual amount of protein lost only 41.8% of body fat, compared to 70% for the group that increased their protein intake.
4. Helps to Regulate Hormones
Another very interesting reason to increase the amount of protein you eat is that it can help to balance a number of weight-regulating hormones. When you eat, the body releases a number of hormones in response. By increasing your protein intake, you can help to increase the hormones (GLP-1, cholecystokinin and peptide YY) that help you to feel satisfied. By satisfying your appetite, you will be less likely to overeat or snack between means and therefore lose weight more efficiently.
5. Assists with Muscle Recovery
If your protein intake isn’t on target, you will find that it takes longer for your body to recover after a workout. After every workout, protein can help to enhance muscle recovery by triggering the generation of new protein in your muscles, helping your body to restore and repair damaged muscle fibers. It can also help to restore depleted energy levels.
If you are resistance training, you will also need to take on more protein. Protein can help to increase protein synthesis for at least 24 hours after your last workout. Muscle fibers also break during a heavy resistance session. If you don’t eat enough protein, the rate of muscle breakdown will exceed the rate of protein synthesis and this will result in reduced muscle mass. For the best results, increase protein before, during and after your workout and experience faster recovery every time.
6. Can Help to Lower Blood Pressure
Some studies have revealed that increasing your level of protein could help to reduce your risk of hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. The study found that adults with a diet high in protein had a 40 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure compared with those eating a diet with a lower intake of protein.
Why does protein help? Well, your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and a range of hormones all work together to regulate your blood pressure. It’s a fairly complex process, but protein helps to keep this process efficient. Furthermore, consuming animal proteins, such as eggs and cheese can help to dilate the blood vessels and keep your blood pressure in check. So, next time somebody tells you how unhealthy your 5-egg cheese omelet is, you can tell them otherwise!
7. Boosts the Immune System
If you want to keep your immune system in check, increase your protein intake. When your body is under attack from a virus or bacterial infection, the immune system releases antibodies in response. These antibodies are actually made from protein. If you don’t have enough protein in your body, this could mean your immune system is unable to fight and fend off bacteria and viruses. Furthermore, the majority of protein sources also contain important nutrients such as zinc and magnesium, helping to boost the immune system further.
Get the Best Returns From Your Protein Intake
As you can see, protein is a critical nutrient for everybody, regardless of activity level, age or body type. No matter how you take your protein, whether it is in whole foods, protein bars, whey protein, casein protein, milk protein or beef protein, this is the building block that is going to really power you through your workouts, help you to recover efficiently and boost so many systems and processes in your body.
If you really want to get the most from protein in your diet and through supplements and you are not sure you are taking in enough, speak to your trainer. They will be able to give you sound and actionable advice that will help you to get the best returns, results and gains.