Protein: Not just for bodybuilders!

When I started writing this post, I thought, “I won’t need to list the obvious benefits of protein – everyone knows those”… But then I stopped and thought “maybe people don’t?”. The sad reality is, most people don’t receive any education on food and nutrition, so what might be obvious to me, might not be obvious to others.

So let’s start with the basics: Why do we need to eat protein?

1. Protein is a macro-nutrient who’s biggest benefit is keeping you “full”. Keeping you full means you’re less likely to experience cravings later, therefore causing you to eat less calories. If you eat less calories throughout the day, you will most likely lose excess weight.

2. Protein is a building block for muscle. Now this might seem like something that is only important to people trying to build muscle, but that’s not the case! It’s also important to maintain muscle – especially if you are trying to lose weight.

3. Eating protein boosts your metabolism because your body needs to work harder (use more calories) to break it down and digest it. (For more info click here)

4. Protein heals! This ties back into reason #2. Your body needs protein to repair tissues and organs.

5. Protein is important for bone density (strength)! This is specifically true of protein from animal sources versus plant sources. (Click here if you’d like to see the study.)

6. Protein helps lower blood pressure. This is important to note, because high blood pressure increases risks for heart disease. (See here for the study)

7. Having protein at each meal helps to lower your blood sugar levels and reduce insulin level spikes (more on that in a future post).

This is unlikely to be an exhaustive list, but it certainly gives you an idea of just how important protein is for your health.

Now, your next question: How much do we need?

This depends on your age, sex, weight, lifestyle and activity level. Your protein requirements also change if you are recovering from surgery, are bodybuilding, or are pregnant. These are all important factors to keep in mind. A general chart to help you calculate your protein needs is below, however there are many more specific ones that can be found online. This serves as a great starting point though, and is surprisingly accurate. The left side of the chart indicates your activity level and the right column indicates the grams of protein required per pound of your body weight.

SEDENTARY ADULT (desk job, little to no exercise)
0.5 grams/lb
ACTIVE ADULT (exercising min. 3 times a week)0.6 grams/lb
ENDURANCE ATHLETE (long-distance runners)0.7 grams/lb
STRENGTH ATHLETE (weight training)0.8 grams/lb

So you’ve learned why and how much but now, what kind of proteins do we need?

You’re probably thinking, “there are different kinds of protein?!” Yes. Yes there are. The obvious difference that comes to mind is between proteins that come from animals and those that come from plants. But it goes further than that. Let’s talk about the difference in “Major” and “Minor” proteins.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. The amino acids in protein are responsible for all the healing we talked about earlier. These are what repair your tissues and organs, and are responsible for other bodily processes in relation to our cells. There are 22 amino acids, of which 9 are essential. Animal proteins have the complete set of 9 essential amino acids in them, as opposed to plant proteins which are missing one or more essential amino acids. This is why animal proteins are “Major” proteins, and plant proteins are “Minor” proteins. I don’t want you to think that plant proteins are not important, because they still are! This just means that you’ll need to get more of a variety of plant proteins in order to gather all the essential amino acids that you would get in one major protein. Aside from amino acids, plant proteins and animal proteins contain other nutrients that are important for optimal health, so it is best if you get both into your diet if possible. For more information on this, I like this article and this article (click for links).

I hope this post inspires you to rethink the importance of protein in your diet!


One Comment Add yours

  1. tansyko says:

    Is there such a thing as too much protein?? Like is eating too much red meat bad for you?


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