What if I told you I had a pill that would provide the following benefits…
- Suppresses your appetite and make you feel more full
- Preserves your muscle while dieting (remember more muscle = more calories burned)
- Gives you a small boost in metabolism when you take it
It would be a no-brainer. The benefits are obvious! Well, I am here to tell you… PROTEIN IS THAT PILL!!
WHY IS PROTEIN SO IMPORTANT?
Higher protein intakes have been shown to aid in fat loss, gain muscle, recovery from workouts, feeling fuller after meals and simply maintaining optimal health.
Protein is also considered an essential macronutrient as it makes a crucial and essential component of every cell in the body.
Additionally, protein is broken down in to 20 amino acids. Of those, 9 are considered/ referred to as essential because they cannot be made by our bodies. We must obtain them through our diet.
Protein is used to build and repair tissues (like skeletal muscle, bone, hair, fingernails, cartilage, skin, and blood) as well as make enzymes and hormones.
Like carbohydrate and fat, protein provides energy in the form of calories, but it has so many other important functions.
Protein CANNOT be stored. Instead, the body relies heavily on carbohydrate and fat for stored energy.
HOW IS PROTEIN USED IN OUR BODY?
Shortly after a meal, proteins are digested into amino acids, or the small building blocks of proteins. These amino acids, are absorbed by the small intestine and then distributed to cells in the body.
The cells take what they need to build and repair new or damaged cells and tissues. Because the body does not store protein, once our basic needs have been met, any excess can be used for fuel.
For this to happen, protein must first be converted into glucose (carbs) and subsequently, glycogen (stored form of carbs). Glycogen can be stored in the liver and or muscle tissue. This usually only happens when the body is short on carbohydrates.
Finally, though very rare, after protein has been converted to glucose, if carb (glycogen) stores are full, protein can be converted into fatty acids acids and stored as fat. Again, this is not a common situation.
WHERE DO WE GET PROTEIN?
Protein is found in a variety of foods such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and even grains.
Animal proteins like meats, poultry, fish, eggs, are considered ‘complete proteins’. This means they provide ALL of the amino acids required by our body.
Most plant-based proteins like legumes, some nuts and seeds, and grains, are ‘incomplete’ and do not provide adequate amounts of the essential amino acids by themselves.
To remedy this, you can combine plant-based foods to form ‘complementary proteins’ which are then ‘complete’. Plant proteins like soy and peas are considered complete on their own.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS TO CONSIDER FOR PROTEIN?
- As always, choose whole food sources first, use protein shakes/ bars to supplement what you cannot get with your food intake alone
- Since protein cannot be stored, aim to get 25-50g of COMPLETE protein per meal spread over 3-5 meals/ day depending on your total calorie and protein needs. Eating more per meal has diminishing returns on benefits, while consuming less per meal won’t turn on/ trigger the benefits protein has to offer.
- Choose lean cuts like pork and beef tenderloin. A general rule of thumb: cuts that have round, chuck or loin in the name are usually lean.
- Since ground meats are typically high in fat, look for the leaner options, like 90/10 ground beef/ turkey, which contains 90% lean meat and only 10% fat. Or even 93/7 for 93% lean meat and only 7% fat.
- Use plant-based proteins in addition to your animal-based proteins. Or exclusively if you prefer. To follow a plant-based diet. Foods like beans, peas, quinoa and lentils, are also rich in other nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Be informed, most plant-based proteins are INCOMPLETE; meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids on their own. So, consume them in pairs to make COMPLEMENTARY proteins. An example of a complimentary protein would be combining beans & rice.
- Fish can be an excellent source of protein. Aim to eat 3-4 ounces of twice per week. from cold-water sources like salmon which are a rich source of Omega-3s, a healthy, unsaturated fat.
Most find protein it challenging to meet their daily protein needs.
One tip we give our clients when falling short of their protein goals is; don’t think of ‘what else’ you can eat to meet your protein. Simply eat larger portions of the protein you’re already eating. Example: instead of 3oz of chicken, have 4oz.
Seems simple, yet many think too far ahead and miss the simple things.
When building your meals, keep in mind that ‘protein’ is derived from the Greek word proteios, meaning “primary” or “holding the first place.” So, Always build your meals around your protein first!
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