High protein. Animal protein. Plant protein. Protein talk is everywhere, but do you know the basics? Before you start stocking up on protein-packed foods or cutting back in an effort to lose weight, it's time to learn a little more about what protein does and why we need it.
What Is Protein?
You can find protein in every single cell of the body. According to the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), proteins make up the body's tissues, like the skin organs and hair, and can also be found in body fluids like blood, saliva and sweat (not in urine or bile). We need protein to repair ourselves, to grow and develop strong, lean muscles and to function properly.
Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, which are either made by the body (nonessential) or consumed through food (essential). A diet rich in amino acids will help you ensure the body is getting enough protein to repair damage and develop and operate properly throughout each stage of life.
The amount of protein that your body needs depends on your gender and activity level. A general guide is about 46 g of protein a day for a moderately active adult woman and about 56 g of protein a day for a moderately active adult male, according to the Institute of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. Speaking with a doctor, trainer or registered dietician can help you determine your individual needs in relation to your health and fitness goals.
Protein for Weight Loss
Published research has shown people who eat more protein tend to weigh less than those who don't. However, there aren't any major studies that link a high-protein diet to significant and sustained weight loss on its own. A diet that is balanced and free of processed and high-fat foods is the best strategy for weight loss and management, no matter if you consume animal products or not.
However, if you're increasing your training to lose weight and build lean muscle, upping your protein intake is essential. The protein will help your muscles recover and repair themselves after rigorous physical activity, which can cause microscopic tears. Protein will also help you build up lean muscle mass as you reduce fat. A 2012 study published in the medical journal Medicine and science in sports and exercise demonstrated this link between protein consumption and muscle recovery, showing athletes who consumed protein right before going to bed experienced stimulated muscle protein synthesis.
How to Get More Protein
To make sure you're getting all the protein your body needs, start by examining your diet. Animal protein sources are eggs, fish, meat and dairy products. However, you don't have to consume animal products to get enough protein. If you're a vegetarian or vegan or want to avoid consuming too many animal products (they can be high in fat and raise cholesterol levels), consider plant sources like whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes and soybeans.
If you're looking for even greater protein intake, you can try a supplement. There are many different protein supplements on the market to accommodate a variety of dietary preferences. Protein supplements are made from whey, soy, rice, peas and eggs, allowing you to pick the formula that works best for your body as well as your diet.
It's important to note protein bars and shakes are not intended to be meal replacements. A proper meal replacement still contains the correct balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins and shouldn't be extremely low in calories. You can use a protein powder as a base to create a meal replacement.
While protein alone can't help you lose weight, it can be a tool to help you get to your goal. You can find a wide selection of fitness, diet and weight management products, like protein, at eVitamins. Check back tomorrow for the latest health news and information!