Do you want to lose weight, gain muscle mass and strength, or improve your metabolic health? Then make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet. Protein is a vital macronutrient needed for every part of your body. It’s used to build and repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. In fact, if you’re not getting enough protein, you likely have flabby muscles, are generally weak, and have brittle bones — among other issues. Here are the reasons you need more protein in your diet.
What’s all the fuss about protein?
Apart from strengthening your muscles, protein is vital for the growth and repair of nearly every cell and tissue in your body, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Protein is energy for the body — Each gram of protein provides 4 calories.
- Protein is part of every cell in the human body — It’s necessary for proper growth and development.
- Protein helps build and repair every cell and tissue in your body — It’s a vital component for skin, hair, nails, muscle, bones, and the organs.
- Protein is part of all body fluids — It’s important for blood clotting, fluid balance, immune response, vision, antibodies, enzymes, and the production of hormones.
From the outside to the inside of your body, protein is a vital macronutrient. But here are 10 more reasons why you might want to up your protein intake.
Helps you lose weight
Anyone who’s ever embarked on a high-protein, low-carb diet can tell you; increasing protein can lead to instant weight loss. The reason? High protein diets boost metabolism and keep you satiated longer, which leads to fewer cravings and a reduction in calories.
A study involving 130 overweight people on a calorie-restricted diet, over 12 months, found that those who consumed a high-protein diet lost 53 percent more body fat than those who consumed the same number of calories with an average amount of protein.
Helps you maintain your weight loss
Losing weight is just the first step to looking and feeling better. Keeping the weight off is sometimes the bigger challenge. Studies show that a modest increase in protein after weight loss can help you maintain your ideal weight. In fact, the study found that eating 20 percent more protein after weight loss resulted in a 50 percent lower chance of regaining weight.
Increases fat burning and boosts metabolism
All foods actually boost metabolism because your body uses calories to digest. The process is referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF). However, not all foods produce the same results. Protein has a much higher TEF, according to research. Higher protein intake increases thermogenesis. When your body burns calories, it generates more heat. So, anything that boosts metabolism or fat burning like protein is considered thermogenic. One study found that participants consuming a diet higher in protein burned 260 more calories per day than a low-protein group.
Increases muscle mass
Many studies suggest that consuming more protein increases muscle mass during strength training. In addition, a higher intake of protein can help prevent muscle loss when losing weight.
When it comes to carbs, fat, and protein, protein fills you up the most. Protein boosts hormones that make you feel full and reduces hormones that make you feel hungry. Naturally, this affects your appetite in a big way. So, consider reducing your carbs and replacing them with protein. A study that had participants increasing their intake of protein from 15 to 30 percent of calories found that overweight women unintentionally ate 441 fewer calories per day.
Stops late-night snacking and cravings
Everyone who’s ever dieted knows that craving certain foods is detrimental to weight loss. But how do you stop cravings when your body and mind are shouting, “eat that cake!” Cravings are incredibly hard to resist because what they’re really about is your brain needing a reward.
There is one way to control cravings, though, and that’s increasing your protein. One study looked at obese men to determine how dietary protein and eating frequency affects appetite and satiety during weight loss. By increasing protein to 25 percent of calories, cravings were reduced by a whopping 60 percent. Additionally, their desire to snack at night was cut by half.
Helps the body repair faster after injury
Research suggests that eating more protein after an injury can help speed up recovery. In fact, studies show that protein deficiency actually contributes to a slower rate of healing and a reduced rate of collagen formation. Low protein diets contribute to a slow rate of wound healing, as well.
Protein may reverse metabolic syndrome
Metabolic disorder occurs when the metabolism process fails. This causes the body to have either too much or too little vital substances needed to stay healthy. Diabetes is one of the most common metabolic diseases. Studies suggest that a high protein diet may actually reverse metabolic syndrome. An animal study found that after 12 weeks of consuming a high protein diet, rats not only lost weight but also showed great metabolic improvement.
Lowers blood pressure
When it comes to heart disease and chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure is often an underlying factor. Which means that keeping your blood pressure in a normal range is imperative. Increasing protein intake has been linked to lower blood pressure. In addition, research suggests that a high protein diet also reduces bad or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. High triglyceride levels are linked to heart disease.
Improves bone health
Consuming more protein as you age maintains bone mass according to research. In fact, protein deficiency is associated with osteoporosis. So, to help ward off osteoporosis and fractures, up your protein intake. If you’re a woman, this is particularly important since women have a higher risk of getting osteoporosis after menopause.
How to get your protein
There’s more to protein than meat, poultry, and seafood. Increase your intake by adding soy products, dairy products, eggs, quinoa, lentils, beans, broccoli, and peas to your diet. Nuts and seeds like almonds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds are also tasty ways to add protein throughout the day.