Last week we spoke about carbohydrates. Today I will be covering Protein and its importance. There is a stigma about consuming protein shakes that assumes only body builders and gym junkies consume protein shakes! It’s far from the truth.
The protein we eat are made up of building blocks called amino acids. When you digest protein, those amino acids are used by your body to manufacture important proteins within your body. Proteins are fundamental components of all living cells and include many substances such as enzymes, hormones, antibodies that are necessary to the functioning of an organism. They are found in every part of the body including muscle, skin, bone, hair, and tissue; assisting with muscle growth and development, improvement of metabolism and helps facilitate fat loss.
With the above being said, the body does not self-manufacture protein and we need to digest protein-based foods to replace existing stores of protein. You can find protein in all animal-sourced foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. You can also find protein in soy products, seeds, and nuts. One of the most common protein sources are supplementation. However, you don’t necessarily need supplementation if you are consuming enough protein in your day to day eating habits, but the truth is, most people are not eating enough protein. As such, supplementation is a convenient and concentrated way to meet your daily requirement.
Why should we eat protein?
Protein is essential for muscle tissue growth and repair. When you do weights training or any form of muscular stress or “damage” you are essentially micro-tearing muscle fibres to promote growth. The muscular damage initiates a repair process in which certain hormones, along with protein, synthesize new cells. Protein helps optimize this process so that your muscles are repairing efficiently and effectively, ensuring muscular adaptations and muscular protein synthesis, facilitating the recovery of muscle function and performance.
How does Protein help with weight loss?
Protein ultimately helps with improving your metabolism. In the previous article, we spoke about how when you consume carbohydrates you either utilise it as energy or store it as glucose in your muscle and liver for later use. Given that protein helps with the growth and adaptation, it essentially provides you with a greater reservoir for storage before being converted into fat. Furthermore, your muscles utilise energy (calories) for its repair and adaptation process, effectively increasing your resting metabolic rate. When you eat food, your body expends energy (calories) to digest, absorb and store nutrients from food. This is called the ‘Thermic Effect of Food”. Protein has a higher TEF than carbs or fats – 20-35% compared to 5-15%. This suggests that higher protein intake boosts your metabolism and increases the number of calories you burn.
Protein foods also keep you fuller for longer and boosts satiety hormones which reduces hunger hormones and cravings for high carbohydrate and fatty foods. This leads to a major reduction in hunger and calorie consumption leading to weight loss goals.
Increasing your intake from 15% to approximately 30% of your energy intake will burn extra calories equivalent to approximately 2.5kg of fat over 12 months.
What happens if I don’t consume enough protein?
Protein deficiency can lead to number of health concerns. Most prominently, weakness and fatigue. Lack of protein prevents your muscles from efficiently repairing and growing, leading to a reduction in strength, and deceleration of your metabolism, effectively making you tired and weaker.
Hair, skin, and nails are made up of proteins like elastin, collagen, and keratin. Something to consider is that the lack of protein can lead to unhealthy hair, skin, and nails as they are deficient in the aforementioned proteins.
We often associate protein with performance, recovery and body shaping but one of its most vital roles is to support our immune system. Amino acids in protein help power up T cells, B cells (both found in white blood cells) and antibodies which operate as a defensive line against bacteria, toxins, and viruses.
Cuts, scrapes, bruised, injuries heal slower with lower protein levels. If you lack collagen in your skin and proteins in your blood cells your ability to heal slowly diminishes.
There are many more reason to consume protein and not limited to the above.
The biggest reason we fall short of meeting our protein requirements is lack of knowledge, so hopefully this offers a deeper understanding of its importance. Depending on your goal, protein intake should be equivalent to approximately 30-40% of your daily calorie consumption. There are 4 calories per gram of protein.