Benefit 1: Reduces Hunger
Protein rich foods aren’t just filling – they actually increase your levels of satiety hormones (the ones that tell your brain when you’re full). In one study, people who increased the amount of protein in their diet by 20-30% actually ended up eating less food overall.
Use it: Plan your meals around your protein source first. Start every day with at least 20grams of protein and aim to get a minimum of 20-30 grams per meal.
Benefit 2: Raises Your Metabolism
Protein has a high thermic effect. That means our bodies require a lot of energy to break protein down into it’s usable parts and our metabolism jumps up from all the extra work! In some studies, high protein diets increase your metabolism by about 5% for the entire day. Sounds like a small change, but over time that adds up!
Use it: Choose high quality and easily digestible proteins, like animal proteins, to ensure your body can absorb the maximum amount of nutrients (rather than letting the low quality stuff pass right along through your digestion without breaking it down).
Benefit 3: Preserves Lean Muscle Mass
Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. Typically, when you lose weight, you also lose some muscle. But eating enough protein can help protect your muscles from deteriorating. Pair protein with strength training and you’ve got a serious recipe for fat loss without losing any muscle.
Use it: Many of us should aim to have a minimum of 30% of our diet made of protein. Too heavy on the carbs and you’re body will start breaking down your muscles for the necessary fuel it needs.
Benefit 4: Increases Muscle Development
Any trainee knows that protein is important for muscles! The amino acids of protein can kickstart the protein synthesis – how our muscles grow and repair. Without enough protein, all the heavy lifting we do in the gym can go to waste when there’s not enough fuel to rebuild the broken down muscle tissues.
Use it: After training, make sure you eat at least 20 grams of protein at your need fueling to keep the protein synthesis activated.
Benefit 5: Fights Cravings
Most protein sources contain glutamine – a nutrient that is powerful at reducing cravings. It is used in the brain as an energy source and has actually shown to increase your will power when fighting cravings. But protein also has carnitine, an amino acid whose job is to help fatty acids be used in the body as energy. With a stable source of energy from those fatty acids, you don’t expire drops in blood sugar and experience the sugar cravings for quick fix energy.
Use it: Protein and fat are the perfect pair for fighting cravings. Make sure each meal is planned around these – or if a craving hits, start by eating a sufficient “snack” made up of protein and fat (and lots of water) to quit the craving.
Benefit 6: Boosts your Motivation
Protein can actually be a key factor in staying motivated. The amino acid build blocks of protein are essential components in our bodies alertness, energy and brain function. Those amino acids stimulate a network of neurotransmitters in the brain to increase our functioning and energy (where glucose from carbs can slow down the network and give us the carb comas).
Use it: Favor animal proteins over plant proteins when you are starting to lack your motivation. Animal sources have higher concentrations (and natural forms) of necessary nutrients like carnitine, Omega 3s, and B-Vitamins that can also play a big role in your energy.
Benefit 7: Improves Your Sleep
And because protein has an integral role in our wakefulness, it also impacts our sleep! Opposite the neurotransmitter network is our orexin network – the one that allows our bodies to rest and recharge with quality sleep. Protein serves to wake us up, but it’s just as important in giving us rest (not that carb coma, but the the good quality sleep to restore our bodies).
Use it: If your have trouble winding down at night, you may need to balance your protein with a little bit of carbs (veggies are the perfect choice). So have a late snack of chicken and veggies strips or choose something that already has a combination – like plain Greek yogurt.
So how much protein should you eat each day?
The best rule of thumb: 1.5 ounces of protein for every pound of lean muscle mass you’ve got.
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