When it comes to food cravings sometimes all it takes is one chocolate chip cookie and we are satisfied. Other times we’re ravenous and could eat for two for an entire week. If regular food cravings are keeping you from your fitness goals, you may need more protein in your diet. Protein has the power to regulate your hunger and even out your blood sugar highs and lows.
Why is protein so important?
Protein is an important nutrient for everyone, not just athletes and bodybuilders. Required by every cell in the body, it’s the foundation of every human body. More than 10,000 types are found in everything from your organs to your muscles and tissues to your bones, skin, and hair.
Protein is also the second most abundant compound in the body, following water.
Your body needs protein for many different and important functions. Here are the top 5:
Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. In fact, your hair and nails are comprised mostly of protein.
Your body uses protein to build and repair tissue.
Red blood cells contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. This helps supply your entire body with the nutrients it needs.
About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aids in digesting food, and making new cells and body chemicals.
Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.
How can protein help you stay in shape?
Whatever your fitness goals, protein is an important element of your diet. It’s not just for those who want to build muscle, it is for anyone who wants to live healthy and happy and have plenty of energy throughout the day.
Eating high-protein foods has many fitness benefits, including:
- Protein-rich foods take longer to digest. Eating more protein keeps you fuller longer. Essentially you become more satisfied by eating less food which can aid in weight loss.
- Protein helps you to build and maintain muscle mass – more muscle, equals more calories burned even in a resting state.
- Protein helps accelerate recovery after exercise and/or injury.
If you understand the benefits of consuming protein-rich foods, you are more likely to stay motivated, stick to your plan, and reach your goals.
How much protein do you need?
On average adults and children require 2 to 3 servings of protein every day. Those who are working out will require more protein depending on their goals and level of exercise.
For reference, one typical portion size equates to:
• 3-4oz of lean boneless meat (red and poultry)
• 4-5oz of fish
• 3-4 medium eggs or 5 egg whites
Most foods contain either animal or plant cells and will therefore naturally contain protein. Proteins from animal sources have a higher biological value than proteins from plant sources. This is because the pattern of amino acids in animal cells is comparable to the pattern in human cells.
Vegetarians, vegans, and pescatarians should therefore consume a wide variety of protein types like tofu, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and lots of different vegetables.
A few years ago I interviewed a friend and expert on supplements regarding protein bars and whether they were beneficial or just glorified candy, click here to see what I learned.
As you can see, protein goes much further than just building muscle. It’s not just for bodybuilders and CrossFitters and those who spend every waking moment at the gym. It’s for every individual who is looking to be healthy. Your skin, immune system, tissue organs, bones, and what keeps you standing is all dependent on the magic of protein.
If you really want to see what you consume in a day, I highly recommend keeping a food log. It not only will tell you if you are eating enough protein but also clarify if your other eating habits are keeping you from reaching your personal health and fitness goals. Read my blog Food Log 101 to learn more.