Carbohydrates, fats, and what’s the third one? Hmm, we know it. It’s on the tip of our tongue! Ah, right, protein! How could we ever forget such an important macronutrient? Without protein, we most definitely wouldn’t have these muscles *flexing*. But, we know that protein is for much more than just our muscles, which is why we stand by a high protein diet. A high protein diet has tonnes of benefits, and it may just be right for you! Here’s what you need to know:
What is Protein?
Protein is what makes up our muscles, hair, nails, skin, and more. It is one of three essential macronutrients that we must consume every day to maintain our health. It works as a building block for over 10,000 structures in our bodies. But, if we take a closer look at protein, you’ll notice that 20 smaller building blocks, known as amino acids, make up the protein itself. Our bodies can either make these amino acids, get them from food, or both. Of these 20 amino acids, 9 are considered essential, meaning that our bodies can not make these, they must be obtained through food. Due to the variability in the composition of a protein, protein sources are classified into either a complete protein or an incomplete protein.
Complete Protein vs. Incomplete Protein
A complete protein has all essential amino acids. Examples of complete protein are meat, poultry, tofu, and fish. An incomplete protein, as the term may suggest, is missing some amino acids. Some foods that fall into this category are beans, lentils, nuts, whole grains, seeds, and more.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
The average adult needs 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Nonetheless, protein requirements may increase if you are a more active individual or depending on your life stage. In general, older individuals and those that are more physically active will require more protein. Protein consumption typically ranges anywhere from 0.8g/kg of body weight to 2.0g/kg of body weight, or anywhere from 10% to 35% of your calories from protein. A high-protein diet typically involves consuming 20-35% of your calories from protein but may vary per person. To determine the appropriate amount of protein for you and your goals, talk to your physician or to a registered dietitian before making any changes to your diet.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein plays an important role in our bodies. Aside from its most famous role in muscle-building, protein also plays a role in various systems including, our metabolism and immune system. Protein is essential for anything from making hormones to assisting with digestion to maintaining proper pH to building skin and other tissues. Since protein is essential for many processes, a protein deficiency comes with severe consequences. A protein deficiency can result in decreased immunity, system failure, malnutrition, stunted growth, and even death.
What Are The Benefits of a High Protein Diet?
- Weight Loss: Protein moves slowly through our digestive system. Eating protein with every meal will help us feel fuller for longer and avoid eating unnecessary calories. Additionally, continuing a high protein diet after you’ve achieved your weight loss results, may help you keep the weight off for good too!
- Boosted Metabolism: When paired with a weight training program, a high protein diet will allow you to build more muscle. Increasing the amount of muscle on your frame will allow you to burn calories more easily. Additionally, our bodies require more energy to break down protein, so you may be able to burn an extra 80-100 calories per day without doing much work.
- Can Help Prevent Osteoporosis: Higher protein consumption may be beneficial for bone mass maintenance, especially in women.
- Reduced Cravings: Cravings are often associated with the brain needing some dopamine, a hormone. As mentioned above, protein plays a role in hormone production. Having a high-protein meal may increase dopamine production and reduce cravings.
- Boosts Heart Health: A high protein diet may help improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
- Faster Recovery: Whether you’ve just hit the gym and are suffering from sore muscles or you’re recovering from an injury, a high protein diet may give your body the boost it needs to heal faster. Since protein is the building block of many structures in the body, it will be able to target your injury and quickly repair it.
- Promotes Graceful Aging: As we age we begin to lose muscle mass and our skin begins to lose elasticity. With a high protein diet, you may be able to slow down these effects and age beautifully.
What Foods Are High In Protein?
You can choose from both plant-based and animal-based protein sources to meet your protein goal. Animal products such as meat, eggs, chicken, and fish are excellent sources of protein. Nonetheless, if you prefer to keep animal products out of your diet, then you can rely on lentils, peas, tofu, beans, and nuts as your primary source of protein.
When consuming plant-based protein you’ll have to use the “protein pairing” strategy to ensure that you obtain all of your essential amino acids. Protein pairing refers to when you eat two incomplete proteins that complement each other together, like grains/seeds and legumes, or grains and dairy products.
No matter whether you choose an animal or a plant-based protein source, it is important to consider the quality of the source of protein. To maximize health and nutrition, choose grass-fed or free-range animal products. When choosing plant-based proteins, look for products that are organic or non-GMO. Additionally, it is best practice to choose plant-based proteins when possible to lower the risk of several diseases.
Bonus Tip: If the idea of eating higher amounts of plant or animal-based protein doesn’t sound too appealing but you’re still interested in following a high protein diet, you can easily meet your protein goal through high protein snacks and pantry staples. Check out our collection of high-protein goodies here!
Is a High Protein Diet for Everyone?
No. Individuals with certain conditions, such as kidney problems, will not benefit from a high protein diet. Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Ready to make the switch to a high-protein diet? Stock up on high-protein foods here!