High-protein diets seem to be the rage. Carbs, once the darling of the nutrition world have become outlaws while fats have become more accepted in the health and fitness world in recent years. Protein is the current golden child of the weight loss and muscle building universe. But what is the truth about protein? How much and what kind do we need? Is protein a miracle nutrient that will make us healthier, stronger and help us to lose weight and stay young?
Let’s look at the facts
What is protein?
Protein, along with carbohydrates and fats are the three macronutrients our bodies need to live. Protein is the building block for every cell in our body. Unlike fats and carbs, our bodies cannot store protein. We need to consume protein every day, ideally with every meal.
Protein is important for building and repairing muscle tissue, bones cartilage, skin, hair and our nails. Protein is an important component of hemoglobin which transports oxygen to the cells in the body. A large portion of the protein we consume each day goes into making enzymes that help digestion and cell production and is important in regulating hormones.
More than twenty different amino acids make up protein. Nine of these are called essential amino acids and must come from the foods we eat.
Protein has many health benefits. A primary benefit of eating protein is better bone health and a decreased risk of osteoporosis as we age.
Consuming protein that contains Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk for heart disease.
Higher intake of protein may also lower blood pressure but protein should not be used as a replacement for blood pressure medication in people with existing hypertension.
Protein helps repair body tissue after exercise and injury. Increasing how much protein you eat after an injury can speed recovery.
As we age, we tend to lose muscle in the body. Eating protein combines with resistance training can help reduce this muscle loss.
Weight Loss Benefits
Protein helps you feel more full after you eat and can reduce hunger levels by reducing the levels of ghrelin and increasing peptide yy. Ghrelin and peptide yy are hormones that respectively make you feel hungry and full.
Protein may also reduce cravings for snacks.
When we eat, we burn calories during the process of digesting our food. Protein takes more energy and burns more calories during digestion than fat or carbohydrates. Eating protein boosts your metabolism for a short period helping you to burn more calories.
Since protein helps us feel more full than carbohydrates or fat, increasing protein may help to reduce calories consumed and help with weight loss or weight maintenance. Keeping protein intake to about 25-30 grams per meal can help with managing body weight.
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Protein helps to build muscle. Eating enough protein to aid in muscle recovery combined with strength training helps build muscle and strength in the body.
Recommended intake of protein for strength training ranges from .7 gram per pound of bodyweight to 1 gram per pound.
How much Protein do we need?
Protein needs vary by age, activity levels and health. Growing children, pregnant women and aging adults all need an increased level of protein in their diets. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing protein. Older adults should increase the amount of protein they consume.
Minimum recommended amounts of protein intake per day are 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. The National Academy of Medicine recommends a little over 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of bodyweight and a total of 10-35% of your total calories as protein.
Exercise and sports participation increases the need for protein. Upper limit recommendations for protein intake are approximately 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
A good guideline is that protein should make up a quarter of your plate at every meal.
How protein is delivered to your body may make a big difference in your long-term health. Limit proteins that have a lot of saturated fats like red meat and avoid processed meats. Include poultry, seafood and eggs. Plants are also a good source of protein. Beans, peas, nuts, whole grains can also be excellent sources of protein and are good for your health.
While consuming extraordinary amounts of protein to stay healthy, lose weight or increase strength is not necessary, eating the right amount of protein can help manage our weight and improve our strength and health.
Looking for more information on how to stay fit and health as you age, contact Strength for Life at 484-441-6126.
Strength for Life provides in-person and online personal training services and programs for people of all ages and abilities.