Some of you are already seasoned protein buffs. This article is for those of you who are new to the high protein lifestyle and are wondering why the heck I’m putting protein into cupcakes!
I’m not a nutritionist, a dietician, or a doctor, so be sure to do your own research and consult the aforementioned professionals if you are interested in making any big changes to your diet. That said, there’s basically three reasons why you might want to eat a high protein diet.
PROTEIN FOR HEALTH AND VITALITY
Proteins are complex polymers formed from amino acids. They form the fundamental structure for your cells, are essential for enzyme production and digestion, and they are the driving force behind many biochemical reactions in the body. Protein powders (particularly whey) have a very high concentration of essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) which help fight stress and fatigue. Whey protein consumption has also been linked to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as boosting immune function, and even fighting cancer.
Unlike glucose, which can be synthesized in the body if you’re not eating enough carbohydrates, protein cannot be synthesized, so it is imperative to get at least 10% of your daily caloric intake from protein to meet all your body’s essential biochemical needs. 20-29% of calories from protein is considered a “high protein diet”, and 30-39%+ are considered a “very high protein diet”. The body’s ability to metabolize protein stops after 35%, so it isn’t recommended to regularly exceed this amount. Protein toxicity starts to set in after a consumption of over 230 grams of protein per day – which would be a ridiculous 11 servings of protein, so no need to worry about accidentally overdosing.
So that leaves a large range of healthy protein intake between 10 and 35%. Aiming for the higher end of that spectrum is usually to serve one of the following goals: Protein for muscle gain/maintenance, and protein for fat loss.
PROTEIN FOR MUSCLE GAIN/MAINTENANCE
I think this one is fairly well known. Muscles are are primarily made of protein. When you work out you cause tiny tears in your muscle tissue. Your body uses protein to repair your muscle tissue and build it back stronger. Just eating a high protein diet won’t cause muscle gain or strengthening, but it can help to maintain the muscle mass you already have, especially if you have a weight loss goal. When your body experiences a caloric deficit, it draws it’s energy from muscle tissue as well as from body fat. Sufficient protein intake can help to combat this.
A high protein diet, combined with an adequate calorie intake and strength training will build muscle mass. Muscle mass is essential not only to a healthy, strong body, but also to a healthy metabolism.
PROTEIN FOR FAT LOSS AND SATIETY
The most important and easily applied weight loss tip I have ever been given, is eat more protein. Fat loss is about more than simply eating less calories than you expend. Your body processes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins differently, and how much you eat of each affects everything from your hormonal balance to your body composition, and whether your body stores or burns fat.
The main player in this in regards to fat loss is insulin. When we eat, our bodies produce insulin to help us absorb excess glucose from our bloodstream. When insulin spikes, it stops the use of body fat as an energy source. Refined carbohydrates are the worst for this, as they are absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly and cause these spikes in insulin.
Proteins and fats take longer to digest, so they don’t have them same problem. A steady, healthy range of blood sugar levels helps to maintain consistent energy levels and mood, that will get you from meal to meal, through your workouts, and through your day, whatever life throws at you.
Protein is necessary for building and maintaining your muscle tissue, which is the basis of your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so having those extra few pounds of muscle help you to burn more calories, even when you’re doing nothing.
Another reason eating more protein aids in fat loss is that it boosts levels of hormones that help to decrease hunger and increase satiety. That means a protein filled snack or meal (or dessert!) will leave you feeling satisfied for longer, and less vulnerable to temptation.