We all know we need protein, but have you ever considered what protein is and why you need it? Or whether you’re getting enough protein? Let’s dive into the role this essential nutrient plays in your body. Also, some tips on how to calculate how much protein you need. 

What Is Protein?

Proteins are macronutrients, also known as amino acids. They play a variety of roles in the body beyond building, maintaining, and supporting lean muscle mass. From providing your body with energy to optimizing immunity and producing vital enzymes and hormones.
There are over 20 amino acids found in protein, 9 of which are essential nutrients.
The 9 amino acids your body requires  are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine 

What Does Protein Do In The Body?

We touched on this briefly above, but let’s dive in a bit deeper into the role protein plays in the body:

  • Building and Repairing Tissues—think of protein as the building block of tissues, including the tissues that make up your muscles, organs, and skin. Protein keeps tissues healthy and muscles strong, while repairing and growing new tissue cells.
  • Regulating Hormones and Enzymes—enzymes and hormones work synergistically in the body to ensure our organs and systems. This includes digestion, metabolism, respiratory system, and more.
  • Immune Function—amino acids contain antioxidants that are essential for the cellular repair that is required when exposed to oxidants/toxins. Also, for fighting off bacteria and viruses.
  • Daily Energy—nutrition is a delicate balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. When you don’t consume enough carbs and fat, your body turns to protein for energy.

Does Everyone Need The Same Amount of Protein?

The average person requires 15 to 30 grams of protein 3 times a day. This estimated amount is a big variance. That is because whether you’re getting enough protein varies depending on factors including your:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Muscle mass
  • Activity level
  • Overall health

Healthline suggest that adults aim for between .7 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. But as we age, we need more protein. This is because muscle mass starts to naturally decline in our 30s. For most, muscle mass drops 10% by the age of 70. Increased protein intake and resistance training can counteract this loss. That said, many adults over the age of 65 lose their appetite, making increased protein intake a challenge.

Are Most Americans Getting Enough Protein?

Yes, and no. Most Americans eat enough grams of protein per day. However, they may not be getting enough of the 9 amino acids per day.
Different protein sources contain different amino acids. So, if most of your protein comes from meat, poultry, and dairy you may not be getting enough of the amino acids found in nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, fish, and seafood.
This is easy to resolve! Sprinkle nuts and seeds on salads, in yogurt, and on or in side dishes, eat nuts and seeds as a snack, and consume fish or seafood at least 2 times a week.

Why Do Body Builders Need More Protein?

Body builders and athletes burn significantly more calories per day than the average person. This means that they need to consume significantly more than the suggested 2,000 calorie daily diet to ensure they’re getting enough protein. This often means eating 5 or 6 meals per day, or 3 meals with protein-rich snacks—such as protein bars and protein shakes.
Before calculating increased protein intake, body builders and athletes must calculate their personalized caloric intake. Increasing caloric intake naturally increases protein intake. However, body builders must be more strategic about how much protein they consume and when they consume it.
Body building and athletic activities that include resistance training stimulate protein synthesis. Protein synthesis builds new muscle and repairs the inevitable muscle tears that come with high-intensity training. To aid in recovery, decrease soreness, and optimize muscle growth—protein must be consumed within 2 hours of strength and resistance training.
Post-workout protein consumption is less important for non-athletes, but it doesn’t hurt to consume a bit of protein after strength training. Especially on days you really felt the burn!

Do Vegans and Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

Whether vegans and vegetarians get enough protein can vary greatly from one person to the next. Generally, those new to meat-free nutrition don’t yet comprehend how to tailor their nutrition. It’s something they naturally learn along the way.
On average, most vegans and vegetarians eat 13 to 15 percent less protein per day than meat-eaters. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t getting enough protein, as protein intake varies by age, weight, and individual nutritional needs. Just like meat-eaters, vegans, and vegetarians may struggle to obtain the amino acids more common in meat.

Do You Need More Protein When You’re On Semaglutide?

If you’ve been prescribed Semaglutide or another GLP-1 medication, you must be mindful of muscle wasting. Any time you lose weight, you lose 2/3 fat and 1/3 muscle. The more weight you have to lose, the more muscle you stand to lose—which can be problematic. This is one of many reasons you should take your weight loss prescription under close medical supervision.
Signs you might have lost too much while taking your GLP-1 prescription include:

  • Decreased stamina—you’re losing weight, so you should be feeling increased energy and range of motion, not decreased stamina.  
  • Balance—if your balance is off lately or has changed in any way, it could be because you don’t have enough muscles for stability and control. 
  • Muscle fatigue—if your legs feel tired walking up the same number of stairs you used to be able to walk without fatigue, it could be a sign of muscle wasting. 
  • Decreased BIA—unlike a BMI that measures body fat, BIA measures both muscle mass and body fat. Ideal body composition should be between 60 and 75 percent muscle.   

Valley Medical Weight Loss and Med Spa closely monitor our Semaglutide patients. From minimizing nausea to gradually increasing your dose, inquiring about how you feel, advising on strength training, and protein intake.   
A proactive approach can minimize or eliminate weight loss muscle waste. It can also boost your resting metabolism rate to accelerate your weight loss! 

What Are Some Easy Sources of Protein?

If you don’t think you’re getting enough protein, mix more of the foods below into your daily diet.

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Avocados
  • Nut butters
  • Seed butters
  • Quinoa
  • Protein powders

What About Protein Bars, Powders, and Shakes?

The range of protein shakes, powders, and bars on the market is impressive. That said, not all high-protein and meal replacement options are created equally. As always, read the label to ensure that the product you choose is low in:

  • Sugar
  • Saturated fat
  • Processed carbs 

How To Track Your Protein Intake?

Once you determine how much protein you require, you’ll need to track it. Thankfully, tracking your nutrition has never been easier! Just download a nutrition app. There are countless options to choose from, including free and paid options. Paid options typically have more features and functions, such as personalized goal setting, daily motivation, and automated reminders. You can find paid options that start at around $5 a month.
A few nutrition apps to consider include: 

  • Cronometer
  • MyTummy
  • Spokin
  • MyFitnessPal
  • MyNetDiary

Looking For A Nutritious Protein Shake?

If you aren’t getting enough protein or are in need of protein on-the-go, we have a delicious Skip-A-Meal protein shake. It’s high in protein, vitamins, and minerals—and low in fat and sugar. Enjoy it as a meal replacement, on-the-go meal, or post-workout recovery snack.
Our shake comes in 3 delicious flavors, Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry. It’s formulated from whey protein, so it’s not vegan or vegetarian. Just mix it in water or your beverage of choice.

How Else Can We Help?

Valley Medical Weight Loss and Med Spa offers a variety of weight loss and aesthetic solutions, but we also support personalized health and wellness with hormone therapy, hair loss treatments, vitamin injections, supplements, and more.
Reach out to learn more!  

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