Protein’s rise to stardom began back when high-protein, low-carb diets were all the rage. Since then, most of us have come to understand protein as an important part of a healthy diet, but what is protein and why is it beneficial for our bodies?
Protein is made up of building blocks, also known as amino acids, which help our bodies build and repair muscles and bones. It also produces enzymes and hormones that contribute to the development of new cells, digestion and your body’s energy levels. To truly optimise your health, you have to consume adequate protein in your diet.
“Insufficient protein can have detrimental effects on your health such as slow metabolism, mood swings, slow tissue repair and increased risk of infection, explains Angela Leach, Head Dietician for Futurelife. “A lack of protein over a long period can lead to harmful changes in our body composition, but a good amount of it will help you maintain ideal bodily function.”
Need more reason to add more protein to your diet? Here are just 5 reasons protein is your friend:
1. It helps with weight management
Protein increases the feeling of fullness after a meal and decreases appetite and food cravings. It also has the highest thermic effect of all macronutrients, which simply means that more calories are burnt during its processing in the body. For effective weight loss and good health, you should include sufficient lean animal or plant-based protein as part of a balanced, energy-controlled diet.
2. To aid with bone health
The research on protein and bone health appears to be controversial, however, this is due to a myth that protein is bad for bone health and that it increases acid load in the body. Numerous studies indicate that adequate dietary protein and calcium intake is essential for bone growth in children as well as the maintenance of healthy bones for all ages. Adults who consume limited amounts of protein have a higher risk of fractures and bone loss.
3. It’s important for immunity
Insufficient protein in the diet can result in a weakened immune system. Proteins are essential for building components of our immune systems such as immune cells and antibodies. They, therefore, play a vital role in building up our body’s defense against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
4. Muscle synthesis and repair
Nutrition plays an important role in performance during physical activity as well as the recovery afterwards. During strenuous exercise, muscle fibers may develop micro-tears which in return, activate the body’s repair response. This repair response involves protein and hormones, therefore, adequate dietary intake of protein is key for muscle recovery. Not only does eating protein after exercise assist with muscle repair, but it also promotes muscle synthesis and strength.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, you should be eating 1.4-2g of protein for every kilogram that you weigh. For example, if you weigh 70kg, you have to consume between 98–140g of protein daily for improved muscle synthesis, strength and repair.
5. Other bodily functions
When we think protein, we tend to think of muscle, but protein is integral to many other aspects of the human body. Enzymes, that carry out many chemical reactions in the body, as well as hormones, that coordinate biological processes, are both proteins. Proteins also transport substances, including nutrients and oxygen, through the bloodstream as well as help control the pH in the body by regulating the acid and base concentrations. An ideal pH is of utmost importance as only a slight deviation can be fatal.
“Protein is essential for our overall health and well-being. To reach our daily protein intake requirements, we should try to include protein sources in all or at least most meals and snacks consumed throughout the day,” says Leach. She adds that great whole food sources include dairy, eggs, beans, soy, legumes, lean meat, chicken and fish.
“High protein cereals and supplements are also extremely helpful in topping your intake up. Something like the Futurelife High Protein Shake offers on-the-go nutrition in a simple, ready-to-drink shake. By squeezing and popping the internal seal, the powder and water mix to create an instant shake that provides 16g of protein in a single serving. That is as much protein as you would find in 2 jumbo eggs.
There are many more surprising sources of protein – all of which are bound to satisfy even the fussiest of eaters, you simply need to do your research and you will be well on your way to a healthier, slimmer you,” Leach concludes.
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