A healthy diet should include a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats obtained from whole foods and low-processed food sources. However, many adults aren’t getting enough protein in their daily diet. This essential macronutrient isn’t just for those looking to bulk up—it’s essential for everyone’s whole-body health. Let’s dive in and explore the benefits of dietary protein.
Understanding Protein: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
Protein is a macronutrient that's vital for building muscle mass. It's made up of smaller units called amino acids, which are known as the “building blocks of life”. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to form a protein. Without a full spectrum of amino acids, your body can’t properly regulate the growth, repair, and maintenance of muscles and body tissues.
Types of Protein and Why They Are Important
Understanding the importance of protein can help you make dietary choices that support your health and fitness goals. Whether you're aiming for weight loss, improved muscle mass, or overall body health—protein is required.
This micronutrient is classified into two main types:
- Complete Proteins: These proteins contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. They are typically found in animal sources like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
- Incomplete Proteins: These proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids. They are typically found in plant sources like beans, legumes, nuts, and grains.
Protein is crucial to the body for several reasons:
- Body Growth and Repair: it's the primary building block of your muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Without enough, your body can't create the structures that make up every cell, tissue, and organ.
- Energy Source: when carbohydrates are scarce, your body can use protein as a source of energy.
- Chemical Reactions: proteins are involved in just about every function performed by cells, which includes enzymatic reactions, DNA replication, and transportation of molecules from one location to another.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should consume 15 to 30 grams of protein per meal. If you are physically active, pregnant, recovering from an injury, or over the age of 40—more protein is required per meal.
For a standard 2,000 calorie diet, you would need to consume 50 to 175 grams of protein per day. Ideally, from a diverse range of food sources. The more diverse the range of food sources, the more amino acids you consume.
The Role of Protein in Weight Loss: How It Helps You Shed Pounds
Let's dive into the fascinating role protein plays in weight loss. Remember, losing weight isn’t just about trimming your waistline—it's about enhancing your overall health and well-being.
#1 Feeling Full and Satisfied
One of the benefits of dietary protein is that it helps you feel fuller for longer. This can reduce both the urge to snack between meals and the urge to overeat during meals.
#2 The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
The thermic effect of food (aka. metabolism) refers to the energy required to digest, absorb, and process nutrients in your diet. Protein has a higher TEF compared to fats and carbohydrates. This can accelerate weight loss by helping your body burn more calories after each meal.
#3 Preserving Muscle Mass
When you lose weight, it's not just fat that you lose but muscle mass too. Consuming adequate amounts of protein helps to preserve muscle mass so that you lose more fat than muscle. Protein aids in post-workout muscle repair and regeneration.
Protein for Muscle Mass: Why It's Essential for a Lean and Toned Body
This powerful macronutrient plays a key role in various aspects of muscle growth and repair. Below are the top benefits of dietary protein for building and maintaining muscle mass.
#1 Workout Recovery
Working out causes micro-tears in muscle fibers. Consuming protein helps repair these tears, leading to stronger, larger muscles.
#2 Muscle Building
This micronutrient contributes to muscle growth by creating a positive balance of nitrogen in the body, which is necessary for muscle protein synthesis. This is the process that allows your muscles to grow and develop.
#3 Body Composition
When you're on a calorie-deficit diet for weight loss, your body may start to break down muscle for energy if it's not getting enough protein. By ensuring adequate protein intake, you can help preserve your lean muscle mass, ultimately promoting a more toned body.
The Benefits of Dietary Protein for Whole-Body Health: Improved Energy, Immunity, and More
This essential macronutrient does far more than just support your muscles. Its impact extends to virtually every aspect of your overall health, from boosting energy levels to enhancing immunity, and more.
#1 Boosts Energy Levels
Protein-rich foods provide the body with a steady and sustained source of energy. Unlike carbohydrates, which can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash, protein helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels, keeping your energy levels consistent throughout the day.
#2 Enhances Immunity
Immunity might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but protein repairs tissues, including those that make up your immune system. By ensuring you get enough, you boost your immunity.
#3 Supports Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails
Your skin, hair, and nails are all made of protein. This is why collagen powders are so popular. By consuming adequate amounts of this vital nutrient, you can ensure these tissues stay healthy and strong. In fact, a deficiency can lead to problems like brittle nails, hair loss, and dry, sagging skin.
#4 Improves Bone Health
Did you know that your bones are made up of about 50% protein? Calcium and vitamin D are often the first things that come to mind when you think of bone health. However, nutrients have a synergistic effect. Research shows that adequate protein consumption minimizes the risk of both osteoporosis and fractures.
#5 Nourishes the Brain
This essential macronutrient provides the necessary amino acids to produce neurotransmitters, which are crucial for cognitive function. This can boost your brainpower and improve your mood.
The Top Food Sources of Protein
Protein can be found in a wide range of foods, both animal-based and plant-based. Aim for a diverse range of food sources to enjoy the full benefits of dietary protein.
- Salmon, tuna, and mackerel are not only high in protein but also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork are all high in protein and can be prepared in countless ways.
- Eggs are one of the most complete sources of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide a good amount of protein and are also a great source of calcium.
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and whole grains.
- Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats.
- Protein products including, protein snack bars, meal replacement bars, and protein powders.
Looking For Quality Protein Powder?
Valley Medical Weight Loss and Med Spa offers a variety of nutritional supplements, including our Skip a Meal protein powder. This high-protein powder is low in fat and sugar, and it can be mixed in your water, juice, or smoothie.
Use it for weight loss, muscle repair, protein supplementation, or on-the-go nourishment!