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7 Reasons to UP Your Protein
We don’t simply eat for protein. We eat for amino acids. This can be a very controversial nutrient especially as it relates to animal-based versus plant-based protein. Not only does protein help build new cells, repair old cells, and keep our muscles and bones strong, but it also keeps us satiated between meals to prevent us from overeating and having significant cravings. Your body needs 20 different amino acids to function properly. However, nine of those are essential amino acids, meaning that they are required from your diet. The amino acid is a building block of protein. This allows our body to function optimally especially as it relates to repair and recovery as well as immune health. The key sources of the amino acids are primarily your animal products like meat, poultry, eggs, and fish, as well as the plant-based protein, soy. Generally speaking, plant proteins do not have a complete amino-acid profile and they are higher in carbohydrates.
Now, let's discuss seven different ways that protein is so important for your body.
One of the key ways it does this is by suppressing the hormone ghrelin, which is produced in the stomach and secreted by the pancreas and the small intestine. It also boosts Peptide YY, which is a hormone that makes you feel full. This can help with cravings, late-night snacking, and eating too much throughout the day. In addition to that, protein has a higher thermic effect of food, which is 25 to 35 percent versus fats and carbs which is five to 15 percent, so that means that you're burning more calories overall by eating more protein sources.
It does this in two ways. One is that it increases glucagon, a hormone produced by the pancreas, which is important for fat mobilization. The second is that it increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is an anabolic hormone that is necessary for muscle growth. Therefore, it is very important that if you are doing a strength-training routine of any kind that you make sure that you're eating enough protein. It's also really important to make sure that if you are in weight-loss mode that you are consuming more protein because your protein needs are higher to preserve that lean body mass.
Despite what some unwarranted research states, protein helps with improving the structural matrix of the bones, helps with increasing urinary calcium, increases your intestinal calcium absorption, and increases the IGF-1.
Not only can it lower blood pressure by reducing the systolic number, but it can also lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. If you are at current risk for cardiometabolic risk factors, or you have a family history of heart disease, I would highly suggest that you incorporate protein into your diet.
Protein is necessary to help fight bacterial and viral infections. It is a vital part of our immune system cells, for example, antibodies. We need protein to make antibodies. So, if you are lacking in protein, you can feel weakness, fatigue, and apathy, and have poor immunity.
Oftentimes our protein needs are even higher after an injury to help with all the things I just mentioned. Remember, protein is the main building block of our tissues and organs. Even as we age and we develop things like sarcopenia, a loss of muscle mass, optimal protein intake coupled with physical activity, especially weight-bearing activity, is critical to prevent that.
Protein is needed for the vital processes of synthesizing hormones and neurotransmitters, our chemical messengers.
Now you know all of the amazing benefits of protein. It can help with weight loss and fat mobilization, increasing muscle strength, helping your body recover from injury, helping your body prevent and recover from viral and bacterial infections, lowering your cardiovascular risk, and improving your immune system.
What is the appropriate amount and when should I eat protein?
For women, 20 to 30 grams of protein is recommended every meal (approximately four to five hours). For males, it is suggested to have 40 to 60 grams every few hours. Most people get about 15 percent of their calories coming from protein, but really, we need 25 to 30 percent. It is easy to think of it this way. At every meal and snack, have a good high-quality source of protein. This means we are aiming for a full profile of nine essential amino acids. That's primarily going to come from your animal proteins, hormone-free, organic, and grass-fed of course. Soy, a plant-based form, contains the essential amino acids. You can as a vegetarian or vegan consume enough protein. However, you just need to plan extensively to make sure that you're getting enough protein and not focusing so much on the carbohydrate sources.
Hopefully, this will help you and your meal planning. Use the KISS principle (keep it stupid simple). Consume a protein, a healthy fat, and a fiber source with every meal and snack and you’ll be sure to get enough protein in.
Arianne Missimer, DPT, RD, CSCS, RYT is founder and owner of the Movement Paradigm, www.themovementparadigm.com.
[caption id="attachment_12618" align="alignnone" width="2560"] Assortment of healthy protein source and body building food. Meat beef salmon chicken breast eggs dairy products cheese yogurt beans artichokes broccoli nuts oatmeal.[/caption]