Protein is an essential nutrient whether you want to lose body fat, build muscle, improve energy, reduce food cravings and regulate blood sugar levels, and enhance your overall health. Protein is comprised of amino acids, which are the building blocks of tissues like muscles and skin. Protein assists in the growth, repair, and regeneration of all cells in the human body including muscle tissue, skin, teeth, nails, hair, etc. Protein also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, control insulin levels, and allows you to feel full and satisfied after every meal. It also acts as a secondary energy and fuel source for your body. Meat protein is a better protein source as it offers a complete spectrum of amino acids. Non meat proteins are considered incomplete proteins, and don’t have a full spectrum of amino acids, which is why non meat protein needs to be combined with one another in a meal.
For every gram of protein in the food you eat, there are 4 calories. Most active men and women need 30 % of their diet coming from lean protein sources. Protein needs increase with activity, as you are experiencing a greater degree of tissue breakdown, namely muscle tissue breakdown. This is especially true if have increased your frequency of weight training, or have gone from being sedentary to lifting weights regularly. Protein sources need to be lean, unprocessed, and as natural as possible. We recommend staying away from proteins like bacon, sausage, beef jerky, chicken wings, regular ground beef, fatty cuts of steak, and any battered fish or chicken. Great sources include boneless skinless chicken, salmon, white fish, lean cuts of pork, extra lean red meat, bison, turkey, deer meet, elk, eggs, egg whites, Greek yogurt, protein powder etc.
Nuts, nut butters, seeds, hummus, and lentils are also great secondary sources of protein. These protein based foods but are not primary sources of protein since they have a higher ratio of fats and/or carbohydrates per serving than protein. Every meal and snack should be comprised of some form of primary or secondary source of protein. A good rule of thumb
(provided you are eating 5 times a day), if to have primary sources of protein in your 3 main meals, and have a source of primary or secondary protein in your Am and Pm snack. Every time you look down at your plate, or in your hands, there should be a protein source of some kind.
The most overlooked and under appreciated benefit of protein regarding weight loss is the fact that protein is very dense. Lean Protein weighs a lot (try putting it on a food scale and comparing it to other foods), and has a relatively small amount of calories per gram. For weight loss, eating dense foods like protein is beneficial as they fill you up, keeping you satiated for hours, and allows your energy level to remain consistent.
This prevents needless snacking, overeating at meals, and allows you to control portion sizes throughout the day.
Let’s say you took a 5oz chicken breast, added it to a salad, and had a side of baby potatoes for a total of 500 calories. Would you feel the same way, than if you had a bag of chips, a chocolate bar, and some pop? Likely not. The latter would leave you feeling hunger, low in energy, and sluggish. Likewise, the former would give you sustained energy and leave you full for hours, making you feel incredible. As you can see from this simple example, not all calories are created equal, are they?
To recap, protein is an essential nutrient and needs to be part of a balanced diet for several reasons:
- It fills you up and regulates blood sugar levels.
- Builds and repairs tissue like muscles, which is even more imperative as you increase exercise and weight training.
- Improves energy throughout the day.
- Assisting in building healthy skin, hair, bones, and teeth.
- Should comprise 30 % of your calories in your diet each day.
- Every meal should have a primary source, and every snack should have AT LEAST a secondary source.