8 Reasons Why You Need More Protein In Your Diet
Chronic diseases linked to obesity are among the leading causes of death in America. There are a myriad health issues, like chronic disease and obesity, that can be avoided simply by making improvements to one’s diet. Health and fitness has been gaining popularity. More and more people are looking to improve their quality of life by getting “healthier.” However, there are many conflicting schools of thought suggesting what people should be eating and what is deemed “good” and “bad.” This conflicting information can make a simple process difficult.
Over the next few weeks we will dive into a 3-part series in which we will cover some of the popular and broad ideas of nutrition. We will focus on macro-nutrients and the benefits of each. To begin, we will look at the benefits of protein and why and how it fits into your lifestyle.
Having a diet consisting of high quality protein is essential if you’re looking to lose body fat and gain lean muscle. Even so, this can only work when you are balancing protein-intake with other healthy foods and good lifestyle habits. This, among other factors, is the reason why there is so much confusion in understanding the benefits of protein.
This article will educate you on whether or not you need to increase your protein intake and how to do so safely.
#1. You’re trying to lose body fat
Though obvious, this concept is often overlooked. The common strategy when trying to lose body fat is to decrease overall calories. This isn’t always the best fit for every individual. Increasing your daily protein intake can be the best place to start. If the goal is to lose body fat, then you may need to increase protein intake. Adequate protein consumption will protect lean muscle mass, increase your ability to use energy and reduce unhealthy hunger cravings.
The amount of protein needed for every individual will vary slightly due to goals and activity levels. The general recommendation is 0.75 to 1 gram of protein/lb of body weight.
Try planning your meals around your protein sources (meat, eggs, fish). Studies show that people who eat the correct amount of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) per day are leaner and have less body fat around their belly. Also, making sure you chew your protein well will improve gut function and ensure that the protein gets digested well.
#2 You’re sick constantly
Amino acids are critical for proper immune function. Varying your protein sources can ensure that you are getting the right amount for proper immune function. Glutamine, for example, is an amino acid that has been shown to be critical for wound healing and a properly functioning immune system. Stress, intense exercise, and nutrient deficiencies can deplete your body’s glutamine stores. This can compromise your immune system and cause you to get sick more frequently. If you find yourself getting sick more than once a year, try increasing your protein intake.
You can make sure that you are getting enough protein in your diet by adding in a high-quality whey protein. Whey protein contains glutamine and other amino acids that can support your immune system and also increase your metabolism.
#3 You’re someone that lives a high-stressed life
Living in a constant state of stress is unhealthy. Elevated stress results in elevated Cortisol levels. An increase in Cortisol leads to cravings for sugary foods and, in some cases, excessive alcohol consumption. Eating protein can lower your Cortisol levels thus decreasing your unwanted cravings. After you eat a meal high in protein your Cortisol levels lower. Then, a few hours later, a hormone “cascade” occurs. Insulin levels decrease and leptin increases. This chain reaction results in diminished hunger.
#4 You get tired in the afternoon
Most poor snack choices occur in the afternoon. Many people make the mistake of reaching for a snack high in carbs when they feel afternoon drowsiness coming on. Research shows that snacks high in protein stimulate brain cells responsible for keeping us alert and focused. By reaching for a high-protein snack, the amino acids in that snack will stimulate the orexin network. Orexin is a neuropeptide that regulates arousal, wakefulness, and appetite.
The ingestion of the high-protein snack will allow your brain to work better while, at the same time, increasing energy use and metabolism. In contrast, if you eat a donut that is high in carbs the orexin network is blocked. This results in a feeling of sluggishness and, moreover, decreases your body’s ability to use the calories that were eaten.
#5 You have constant food cravings
Food cravings are sometimes an indication of unstable blood sugar. This is especially true if you crave high-carb foods like sugar and chips. When compared to eating foods high in carbs, eating foods high in protein lead to a more moderate blood sugar elevation. This is essential or helping reduce cravings. In addition, high protein foods release gut hormones that diminish hunger and keep you feel full longer.
Carnitine, another amino acid found in protein, is responsible for transporting fat into cells to be used for energy. Without this amino acid your body will burn fat slower. Additionally, your energy levels will drop and your cravings for high-carb foods will increase. A great way to eliminate these unwanted cravings is to eat at least 20 to 30 grams of protein at every meal.
#6 You have joint or muscle soreness
Protein is necessary if you work out. Athletes require more protein than sedentary individuals. Protein is critical if you want your body to repair the damage done to muscles and connective tissue after a workout.
The best way to eliminate soreness and joint pain comes from eating animal protein. Animal protein contains all of the essential amino acids and is high in Leucine, the most important amino acid for protein synthesis. You can also find collagen and other nutrients that the body uses for repair in animal protein.
#7 You have trouble sleeping through the night
Sleeping through the night requires your body to burn fat instead of glucose. When you eat a high-carb diet, your body will be more accustomed to burning carbs (glucose). As a results of this, your body will wake up frequently throughout the night searching for a carb “fix”. A recent study showed that people with a high-protein, versus high-carb diet, sleep better and wake up less.
#8 You’re a vegetarian
Eliminating meat and other animal-based foods from diets has become increasingly more popular in recent years. However, your body cannot use vegan sources of protein, such as beans and grains, as efficiently as animal protein. Keeping it simple, you would need a much higher protein intake, in volume, from those plant-based sources to receive the same benefits. While small amounts of leucine can be found in seeds, soy, and other vegetables, optimal levels of leucine are hard to get without eating eggs and/or whey protein.
Whether you fall in to one of these categories or all eight, protein plays an integral role in your overall health. Protein functions as a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It can aid in fat loss by increasing metabolism and decreasing unwanted cravings. Protein can also improve sleep quality and lessen the likelihood that you are ill. If you are interested in more information about how to incorporate protein into your diet or what type of high-quality whey protein is right for you, ask a CrossFit Sabal Park coach!!
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