Over the last two decades, high-protein diets have gone from a staple of the fitness and bodybuilding community to a mainstream dieting option. The popularity of the Atkins and Slow Carb have made protein this decade’s hottest macronutrient.
Eating a diet that’s rich in protein has numerous benefits, ranging from an increase in muscle mass and a decline in body fat to an increased level of alertness during the day. In this blog post, we’ll study the importance of protein for health and wellness.
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What does protein do?
Most people associate protein with athletes and bodybuilders. We’ve all seen sports gurus drinking protein shakes after a training session and focus on lean meats when they’re cutting down before a bodybuilding show or athletics meet.
Protein is one of the most important macronutrients for staying fit and healthy. It’s a component of every muscle cell in the human body, playing an important role in the creation and maintenance of tissue, bones and blood.
But protein is good for more than just athletic ability and strong muscles. Protein is a vital building block for your hair, your skin and your nails. It’s also a useful source of energy for your body, helping you stay alert and focused throughout the day.
The rise of high-protein dieting
For decades, the conventional wisdom of dieting was the fat – particularly saturated fat – was the enemy. A growing body of scientific evidence now suggests that simple carbohydrates are the leading cause of obesity and other health conditions.
As a result of this, high-protein diets have emerged as some of the best ways to burn off extra pounds without exercise. Protein is more filling than fat and carbohydrates, making is a great macronutrient for people aiming to minimize their caloric intake.
Protein is also a slow-burning source of energy, causing a minimal spike in insulin levels and slowly providing your body with fuel. Because of this, it’s highly effective in enhancing weight loss and helping you stay slim without feeling hungry.
Does this mean that the best way to lose weight is to only eat protein? Of course not – a healthy diet should include all macronutrients. It does, however, mean that a diet that’s high in protein will enhance weight loss and give you a firmer, slimmer body.
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How much protein do you need?
Although everyone’s dietary needs are different, it’s possible to work out a protein consumption target by looking at your weight, activity level and body composition, in addition to your long-term physical goals.
Leading dieticians recommend consuming 10-35% of your daily caloric intake in the form of protein. This means that most women should eat 46 grams of protein every day, while men should aim for at least 56 grams of complete protein.
Are you an athlete? If so, you should increase your protein intake to help your body recover from exercise. Athletes should try to consume about 40% of their calories in the form of protein, especially if they work out using weights several times a week.
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How to add protein to your diet
Almost all foods contain protein, although some contain only trace amounts of low quality proteins. In order to meet your basic health needs, your diet should include foods with all of the complete proteins made up of essential amino acids.
Animal foods like meat, poultry and fish are source of complete proteins. A chicken breast or beef steak contains all of the essential amino acids for tissue growth. Fish is also a complete source of protein, in addition to containing vital Omega 3 acids.
Eggs and dairy products are also sources of complete protein. Plant-based foods like legumes and vegetables often contain protein but need to be consumed with a meat, fish or poultry side in order to offer a complete protein profile.
Do you need simple ways to add protein to your diet? Increasing your intake of high quality protein is simple. Try one of the following simple dietary tweaks to increase your protein intake and start burning more fat:
- Add boiled or poached egg whites to your breakfast
- Consume more lean meats like filet mignon and chicken breast
- Drink a whey or casein protein shake after your workouts
- Snack on protein bars instead of sugar-filled candy bars
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Additional benefits of protein
Protein does more than just repair your muscles. New scientific evidence shows that people who consume more protein are more focused, less likely to become sick with common illnesses and generally have a significantly healthier blood profile.
One of the biggest benefits of protein is its ability to increase cognitive performance and alertness. The Franklin Institute claims that consuming protein in the morning increases tyrosine levels, helping you feel alert and awake during the daytime.
Protein can also help you enjoy deeper, more refreshing sleep. By consuming a high-protein meal before you go to bed, you’ll provide your body with a source of energy that lasts throughout the night and helps you wake up feeling far more energetic.
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