From weight loss to muscle gain, protein is crucial in our diets. It's common knowledge that many of us try to increase our intake in different ways to improve our diet. But do you know much about the science behind this macronutrient?
To expand your nutrition knowledge and keep you in the know, we discuss six fun facts about protein we think you should know!
1) Our body is made up of more protein than you’d think
You often hear that more than half of our bodies are water, which is true. But did you know that protein makes up 17% of our bodies? All of the protein within our bodies has a function and none of it gets stored. Usually, protein is used in muscle and tissue repair or growth. Fat, on the other hand, does get stored in the form of adipose tissue, as do carbs in the form of glycogen.
Take this fact into consideration when planning your diet. It is important to include protein in a balanced diet, but too much can be just as bad as too little.
2) High protein keeps you fuller for longer
Many studies have proven that eating protein can help to keep hunger at bay because it takes longer for our bodies to digest. Have a protein-rich breakfast to start your day. This will help you avoid eating office snacks until lunchtime by keeping you feeling full for longer.
Eggs are a popular breakfast food for a reason. They are a great way to ensure you get a high intake of protein in your first meal of the day. One food substance to try and keep clear of in the mornings is sugar. Eating sugary breakfast foods can cause your blood sugar to rise and then drop suddenly later in the day.
If you like something sweet for breakfast then consider fruits. While you should avoid sugar in the morning, fructose sugar is better for you in moderation than pure sucrose.
3) A high protein diet will aid fat loss
People tend to associate protein with bodybuilders, gyms and huge muscles. However, if you are aiming to lose body fat then protein will most certainly help do so! Eating a high-protein diet will not only help with your appetite but it plays a big part in weight management by helping you retain muscle whilst trying to lose weight. Keeping more muscle while losing weight helps your body burn more calories, making it easier to reach your goal.
If you want to lose weight, aim for a daily protein intake of around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram if aiming for weight loss.
Consider talking to a nutritionist is important if you are serious about optimizing your diet for your weight loss journey. They can work with you to determine what diet will work best for your body and goals.
4) A high-protein diet helps build muscle
Amongst other variables, a high-protein diet will also help you build muscle. Paired with the right training and diet, protein is the building block in helping muscles grow. This is often why people associate protein with bodybuilders, gyms and large biceps.
If your goal is to build muscle then start aiming for protein at every meal. Do also bear in mind that increasing protein in your diet will not instantly make you bulky and muscly – a common misconception. It takes a lot of hard work and training to build muscle.
5) Protein is a macronutrient, therefore energy
Protein, like fat and carbohydrates, is a macronutrient. All foods are made up of these macronutrients and therefore energy. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories that fuel our body’s day in and day out. Carbohydrates are the same; they also have 4 calories for each gram consumed. Fats, on the other hand, contain 9 calories per gram.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are all crucial in the healthy development of the body. However, consuming large quantities of saturated fats and trans fats should be avoided where possible.
6) Protein helps our body function
Our body needs 22 amino acids to function, 13 of which our body can create by itself – these are known as non-essential amino acids. The remainder comes from our diet, known as essential amino acids. Foods containing the remaining amino acids (essential amino acids) come in form of complete or incomplete protein sources.
Where can I get protein from?
When planning your diet, there are lots of protein sources for both meat eaters and non-meat eaters worth consideration. For instance, red meat and poultry are a great source of protein for those who eat meat. For non-meat eaters, foods like beans, tofu, lentils, and pulses are also great sources of protein. As of late, alternative meats made from mycoproteins also provide a great source of protein for non-meat eaters.
If you are a non-meat eater it is also important to find a source of vitamin B12, a naturally occurring vitamin in red meat, that is hard to find in vegetables. It is also vital that you find a reliable source of Iron, such as Spinach, lentils, or soybeans. There are also protein powders to consider that come in both vegetarian and vegan-friendly options.
No matter your diet choices, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle and a huge part of that is eating a balanced diet.
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FAQs About Protein and Diets
Are beans high in protein?
Beans are a great source of protein for non-meat eaters and meat eaters alike. A half cup of cooked beans provides the body with around 7 grams of protein. Beans are also rich in fibre which is great for making you feel fuller for longer.
What are tofu macronutrients?
Tofu, or bean curd, is another fantastic source of protein. A 200-calorie serving of tofu contains 24 grams of protein and 3.7mg of Iron - among other nutrients such as Vitamin C & D, Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, and dietary fibre.
What protein burns belly fat?
When it comes to losing weight but retaining your muscle, lean meats, beans, and fish are all great sources of protein that will also help you manage your intake of different kinds of fat.