Want to lose fat and recover faster from your workouts? Looking to increase your metabolism and burn more calories? If you get more protein in your diet, you can do just that! Along with fats and carbohydrates, protein is an essential macronutrient that keeps your body functioning at its peak. It supports lean muscle growth, aids in fat loss, and improves body composition. Its beneficial effects on athletic performance are well-documented.
Why Do You Need Protein?
Protein is a major component in every cell and tissue. For this reason, your body needs it in larger amounts to stay healthy. This nutrient contributes to the formation of enzymes, hormones, muscles, bones, skin, and blood. Under certain circumstances, it can be used as an energy source. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, protein is not stored in the body, so you need to get it from food on a daily basis. The recommended protein intake depends on your age, body weight, activity level, and goals. Active individuals, bodybuilders, and athletes need more protein in their diet so they can recover from training and maintain lean mass. A high protein intake can help prevent muscle loss and increase metabolism when you're on a low calorie diet. This nutrient also regulates your hormones, promotes wound healing, boosts immunity, and supports mental health. Eating too little protein can lead to impaired immune function, mood swings, muscle loss, poor concentration, slow metabolism, bone disorders, and difficulty building muscle or losing weight. Although the daily recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams per pound of body weight, it's not enough for most people. I generally recommended a minimum of 1.5-2 grams per pound of body weight, but this is only a recommendation. Depending on desired goal this figure should be individualized. Protein bars and powders can make it easier to meet your daily protein requirements.
Protein and Athletic Performance
The benefits of a high-protein diet go beyond weight loss and better overall health. This nutrient plays a vital role in athletic performance, muscle growth, and tissue repair. Although it's not an ideal source of fuel for exercise, it supports muscle building and recovery. Protein contains all the essential amino acids that are needed for muscle growth, such as leucine, valine, lysine, and arginine. By increasing your protein intake, you'll perform better in the gym, lose body fat, and become stronger overall. This macronutrient enhances physical performance and stimulates the release of anabolic hormones. Protein requires up to 25 percent more energy to digest compared to carbs and fats, which explains its metabolism boosting effects.
What Are the Best Protein Sources?
Protein is found mostly in animal products, such as meat, dairy, poultry, fish, and eggs. Leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain smaller amounts of protein. Soy is a good choice too, especially for vegans and vegetarians. Some of the best sources of protein include lean beef, turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna, tilapia, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and whey. Vegans can opt for kidney beans, pinto peas, split peas, tofu, tempeh, almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, pumkin seeds, and whole grains. If you have a hard time meeting your daily protein needs, have a protein shake between meals. Whey protein has the highest absorption rate and contains all essential amino acids needed for building muscle size and strength.