Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Nutrition Principle #2 - Protein!
Protein is SO important for our health. All of our cells in our bodies are made of protein, and protein enables the important functions of our bodies! I will spend most of this post telling you some of the reasons that you might want to know the most (not all the reasons).
Protein is so good for you. I do not want you to take my word for it. Here is a great article for you to read for yourself. Below are some of my highlights from articles I'm linking to throughout this post:
helps our bodies replenish cells by supplying amino acids we need
so great for muscles, skin, hair, nails as it is the main component of those tissues
helps produce enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies
replaces worn out cells
improves wound healing
strengthens your bones
helps the body grown and repair--regeneration
helps control body fat (aids in fat loss)
keeps you full
helps your metabolism
helps your body recover from workouts
Protein is beneficial for weight management! What? Yes?! It is true! This article especially helps you understand how protein helps with weight loss/weight management. Here are the highlights below:
Appetite and fullness--protein helps you feel full! You *might* eat less and have less cravings when you up your intake of protein.
Fat loss and body composition--To explain this one briefly--when you reduce your calories to lose weight, your body tends to let go of everything--muscle and fat. But, if you increase your protein, you keep/build the muscle, but in a caloric deficient, you lose the fat. You will lose fat while keeping the muscle, and you want to keep the muscle--for movement, metabolism, and LONG-TERM benefits! We lose muscle as we age. You WANT to have muscle when you are 60, 70, 80, etc...it will be good for your movement, joints, and overall health! Protein will help you as you age. Please consider long term benefit!
Metabolism--higher protein increases your metabolism. Your body has to work to digest it. Fats are carbs are easier to digest, but our body works harder to digest protein (so that means higher thermic effect--has an effect on your metabolism--it requires your body more energy to digest).
Protein is SO good for you...read the above articles and posts. The "why" is always important. If you really know the importance and value, you will eat more protein, and eating a good amount of protein is good for you!
You should be eating between 0.64 - 0.9 gram/pound of body weight. Calculate that! This is a little more difficult to calculate, but grab a calculator and see what would be the right amount for you. Then, assess...how are you doing? Assess your max (0.9g/lb) and your min (0.65 g/lb)--how are you doing? I am not going to calculate this out for you--do the specific work based on your weight, needs, and health goals. Read this article to figure out how much you want to eat. I will tell you that I strive for the upper end (0.9g/lb) for a few different reasons--1. I generally don't hit that daily, so I feel if I am striving for the higher amount, I will get the right amount even on days I fall short. 2. I workout most days and believe it helps me recover and it is good for my muscles, and as a woman over 40, I want to preserve muscle and prevent muscle loss (Do you know women over 35 are losing 3-5% of their muscle every year? Prevent it with strength training and protein)! 3. I have experienced the benefits--hormonally, body composition (muscle to fat ratio), and satiation.
Here is an idea of what protein in grams looks like:
Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast—size of palm—30g
4 egg whites and 1 egg—20-25g
Protein Powder Scoop—30-40g
And then you could look at packages—I.e. tuna, Greek yogurt, etc.
I do know there are some people that believe Americans eat too much protein, that animal based protein is not good, or that too much protein is bad for kidneys/causes cancer/some other bad thing. This specific article by Precision Nutrition looks at some of those claims and addresses them, also with research--check it out if you have been leery of increasing protein. There are certain specific medical conditions that would call for you to eat less protein, but if you are generally healthy, you are going to want to eat adequate amounts of protein.
Even if you do not want to calculate it, please aim to have more protein in your diet. I am not asking or suggest anyone track calories and food. I am just wanting you to assess generally and see where you are with protein intake.
Assess how much you *should* be eating and how much you *are* eating. Drop the pin!
HOW TO DO IT BETTER?
Be educated--do your research and learn what are good sources of protein. You get to decide this for yourself--do the work--it is important work!
Learn which foods are protein, which are carbs, and which are fats. And some are a good combo of multiple macros. Be aware! For example, many people think that nut butters or nuts a good source of protein...and they do have protein, but in reality, they are really a good source of fat (which is still good and needed in your diet!). Many consider beans a good source of protein, and they do have protein, but they are really carbs (which is still good and needed in your diet!)! Eggs--are considered fat, but egg whites are straight up protein. Still, you need a good number of eggs for a good amount of protein. Bacon--fat! Yogurts--most yogurts (which are good for you) are really more carbs than protein--especially the fruity kind or sweetened yogurts--that is fine, just learn which sources are protein and which ones are combos. This awareness might help you realize that you aren't getting as much as you thought you were. See the Venn diagram/picture below.
As a general rule, we get enough carbs and fats, but we don't get enough protein. This is why I emphasize protein with those I am coaching. Go after protein! The carbs and fats will be there. However, protein is the hardest macronutrient to get in your diet, and it is so important! So, pursue getting enough.
Here are a few ways to take some GOOD meals and make them better with protein:
Add chicken or boiled eggs/boiled egg whites to your salad.
Eat a pouch of tuna as a snack with fruit and/or nuts.
Add protein powder to your oatmeal.
Choose Greek Yogurt that is HIGH in protein with granola or fruit.
Have chicken breast on the side with pasta and sauce.
I love a good PWO (Post WorkOut) protein shake. Getting some good carbs and good protein after a workout is really good for recovery (even soreness), muscle growth, and repair.
Read my post about PWO Smoothies--with recipes included. Also, Kate Horney (Beyond Fit Mom) has a great post about protein shakes for women with recipes and other very helpful links about protein powder.
Bottom line. DON'T overcomplicate it. Keep it simple.
Try to make sure you have a good source of protein
a few times a day to help you get your adequate amount.