You see it all over the internet and social media. Fitness enthusiasts rave about it. People are selling you protein shakes left and right. But no one explains why protein is so important for your body and how it can help you lose weight and/or gain lean muscle.
Did you know the word protein comes from the Greek language with a meaning of 'primary importance'?
Protein is a macronutrient, which means our bodies require large amounts in order to function optimally; along with carbohydrates and fats.
It helps create enzymes that regulate our metabolism, hormone production, antibodies, neurotransmitters and the growth and repair of cells. Not to mention it makes up our body structure by building healthy muscle, skin, organ tissue, and hair and nails.
Basically, you can't function without it.
So...What is protein?
Lets dig a little deeper.
Protein is build out of amino acids which are often called the "building blocks of life". There are 3 groups of amino acids: Essential amino acids, conditionally essential amino acids, and nonessential amino acids.
Essential amino acids: the body cannot produce on it's own so we much consume them in out diet and are essential for optimal body functions.
Conditionally essential amino acids: cannot be produced by the body, must be consumed in your diet and are only necessary under certain conditions (like when the body is under stress)
Nonessential amino acids: the body is able to produce these on it's own
Now that you know what exactly protein is, its important to also know that consuming balanced and quality protein is required in order for you to get these amino acids to all work together to build a solid foundation for your body.
How can protein help me lose weight?
First off, protein is calories. 1 gram of protein = 4 calories.
Weight loss essentially comes down to calories in vs calorie out. If you are consuming more calories than you are burning, weight loss won't happen. At the end of the day, calories are still calories. No matter if you are eating 3,500 calories in donuts or 3,500 of lean meats.
So if you are truly serious about losing weight, I encourage you to track your food and look at the bigger picture and not just protein alone.
That all being said, when done correctly, a diet rich in protein CAN help you lose weight and here is how:
Protein is acts as a building block for your muscles, especially when paired with a strength training program like my 12-Week Strength Training Program, eating a high/moderate protein diet will ensure you aren't burning your hard earned muscle tissue for energy. This is a catabolic effect.
Rather, in order to get a fit, toned, lean physique...our goal is for our body to remain in an anabolic, fat burning, state all day long. By consuming a proper amount of protein, the anabolic effect will preserve our lean muscle tissue and force our body to burn fat for energy instead of muscle tissue.
Protein also acts as a great FILLER. When you eat snacks and meals high in protein, you're more likely to feel more full and satisfied when you're finished. Meaning, less empty calorie snacks and junk foods later!
How can I make sure I am getting enough protein?
Protein recommendations will vary and depend on lifestyle, body type, activity level, weight, height, etc.
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) recommends .36g of protein per lb of bodyweight as a baseline to prevent malnutrition. This is the amount your body needs to survive but NOT the amount your body requires to be at optimal health and performance.
Here's some guidelines to follow depending on your lifestyle and goals:
Note: these are for individuals with no health issues or special medical conditions.
If are are having trouble getting enough protein in for the day here are a few rules to keep in mind.
1. Aim to have protein packed snacks and meals every 2-3 hours
DAILY PROTEIN SAMPLE PLAN:
Meal 1: Egg white scramble
Meal 2: Level-1 Protein Shake
Meal 3: 3-4oz Lean Meat
Meal 4: Cottage cheese, turkey jerky, Greek yogurt, etc.
Meat 5: 3-4oz Lean Meat
Meal 6: (optional) Cottage cheese, turkey jerky, Greek yogurt, etc.
2. Add in a protein shake. I highly recommend 1stPhorm Low Temperature processed Level-1 Protein. NO BLOAT, NO GAS, EASILY DIGESTED, HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN SOURCE