7 Reasons Why You Need Protein
The words “high protein” seem to be everywhere these days. So, what’s all the fuss about this mighty macronutrient? If your wish list includes feeling healthier and shaping up (whose doesn’t?), then you’ll want to keep reading. We’ve got seven powerful reasons for getting on the protein train.
But first, what is protein?
Protein is in every cell of the body and is made of long chains of amino acids. These amino acids are essential to all your body’s metabolic processes and are an important building block of bones, muscles, skin, cartilage, and blood. While your body can make some amino acids on its own, it needs your help in covering the rest. Your job is to make sure you’re eating or drinking enough protein-rich foods/beverages throughout your day to prevent protein deficiency so you can perform at your best.
If you go the protein supplement route (i.e. powders, RTD shakes, and bars), you may notice different protein sources on various ingredient labels. Whey protein, a by-product of the cheese-making process, is a common one. It can be processed to yield three different forms: whey concentrate, whey isolate, or whey hydrolysate. Whey protein is a favorite among fitness enthusiasts because of its strong amino acid profile and ease of absorption. Your body can break it down quickly, for faster results. For this reason, whey is great after a workout. There are also slower-digesting proteins – like egg albumin and casein. Egg albumin is a powder made from egg whites, and is lactose-free and low in fat, carbs, and cholesterol. It makes a great addition to any protein blend to improve the overall quality and amino acid profile. Casein is a dairy protein/derivative of cow’s milk known for its slow release into your system. It can take your body hours to digest its nutrients, which is why casein is good right before bed or when you know you’ll be going a prolonged period without food.
Whichever protein type you choose, you can’t go wrong. After reading the rest of this article, you’ll know why!
1. Protein Fights Stubborn Fat
That’s right; consuming more protein can help you lose and even keep off extra weight. How?
For starters, protein has a higher “thermic effect of food” (TEF) than carbs and fat. Put simply, your body has to work harder – and burn more calories in the process – to digest protein-rich foods into small, absorbable components. We’ll go into more detail below, but protein also helps you shape up by curbing your appetite, reducing your food cravings, and controlling your portions. And aren’t those three of the biggest battles you face when trying to get fit? (We’re talking to you, secret junk food drawer.)
2. Protein Helps You Feel Fuller, Longer
Here’s the wonderful thing about protein: It takes your body longer to digest protein than it does carbohydrates. So, while your system is slowly doing its thing, breaking down that chicken breast or protein shake that you’ve just enjoyed, you’ll be left with a greater feeling of satiety. You’ll feel full and satisfied, happy with the portion that was on your plate or in your shaker cup. And with your appetite nice and suppressed, you’ll be less likely to go back for seconds or grab dessert. Over the course of multiple days and weeks, this portion control and calorie savings can reveal itself in many places – like your new, leaner hips, butt, and thighs.
3. Protein Fends off Food Cravings
Highs and lows are great if you’re a roller coaster lover, but not so ideal when it comes to your blood sugar levels. Enter protein. It helps stabilize your blood sugar levels so that you won’t experience steep fluctuations in energy. Why does this matter? When you come off a sugar high and dip into a sugar low, it can be tempting to fill that void with another sugary snack. We’ve all done it before … snuck to the vending machine around 3 p.m. to grab a chocolate bar for instant gratification. It might feel good in the moment, but that treat will just send you down the path of another sugar low once it’s done. By eating more protein, your blood sugar levels will be stabilized, your food cravings will be in check, and you’ll be less likely to make poor food decisions you’ll later regret.
4. Protein Builds & Maintains Lean Muscle
Don’t be scared of the M word! We’re not talking bulging biceps or a barn-door back here. We mean a lean, attractive figure with just enough muscle tone to get you out of the dreaded skinny-fat zone. The kind of muscle that has you saying, “Wow, she has really nice shoulders,” or “Wish I could have her toned legs.” As the building block of muscle, protein is vital to creating this look. It’s especially important when you’re trying to lose weight since your body tends to lose both fat and muscle at the same time. By continuing to eat adequate protein, you’ll not only support fat burning but will preserve shapely muscle. This is especially important as we age. The older we get, the more lean body mass we lose. Increasing your protein intake can help slow this process so you can maintain a fit, strong body for years to come.
5. Protein Repairs Tired Muscles
Have you just started a resistance training program, or been at one for years? Congrats to you. You’re one step ahead of many women who swear by 24/7 cardio! Just keep in mind that the more you weight train, the more you’ll need to replenish tired muscles with dietary protein. For example, you’ll want to have a high-protein shake or other protein snack immediately following a training session. This is when your muscles need nourishment most, in order to repair and grow. By keeping your muscles healthy, you’ll not only look your best but be that much stronger for your next great workout.
6. Protein Strengthens Your Immune System
Thank goodness for our immune system. When disease-causing microorganisms, nasty viruses, or other harmful bacteria come our way, it steps in to keep us healthy. So how can we return the favor and keep our immune system in good shape? Protein is a great place to start. Of the many functions of protein in our body, one of its biggest jobs is to support our immune system. This is partly because protein helps to form many disease-fighting antibodies. Also, many foods high in protein contain other immunity-boosting nutrients. For example, lean cuts of beef and most high-protein powders also contain zinc – a mineral known to help ward off infection. So, get fighting with protein!
7. Protein Promotes Picture-Perfect Hair, Skin & Nails
Is your hair looking a little dull and splitting at every bend? Are your nails brittle and refusing to grow? Have you been waking up to puffy, unpleasant bags under your eyes? If you answered, “yes, yes, and YES!” to these questions, then it’s time to start consuming more protein. After all, your hair, skin, and nails are all made up of different forms of protein. To keep them strong and beautiful, you’ll need to replenish them with complete sources of protein on a regular basis. Your appearance will thank you for it.
We could praise protein for days, but we’ll stop here. Just remember: The best approach is to consume protein at every meal. Don’t have time to whip up an omelette or chicken breast at the drop of a hat? We get it. When you’re busy but still want a delicious, high-protein snack or meal, grab a supplement. There are lots of great protein powders, bars, and RTDs on this very site. Check them out and get your protein on!
About the Author
Nicole Kepic is a freelance copywriter who specializes in health, wellness, and lifestyle writing. She has also had articles published in a variety of fitness and bodybuilding magazines. When she’s not busy writing for her clients, Nicole is either keeping active with her family, curling up with a great mystery novel, or dreaming of her next sunny vacation. To learn more, visit www.nicolekepic.com