Protein is the magic macronutrient that is boldly advertised on the packaging of almost every product tailored for fitness freaks like you and me. But what does it do, why are you constantly being told to eat it and why is it so important?
Top 5 Benefits Of Protein
- It Keeps You Fuller For Longer
- Boosted Metabolism and Increased Fat Burning
- Speeds Up Recovery After an Injury
- Building and Gaining Muscle
- Helps You Stay Fit as You Age
Let’s take a look at five of the top benefits, shall we?
It Keeps You, Fuller, for Longer
If you’re constantly feeling hungry, even after a big meal, then that’s a big indicator that you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet. Not many people know this but eating a high-protein meal actually helps keep your appetite at bay and, ultimately, keep your hands out of the snack cupboard.
Many people’s go-to when their stomach is rumbling is to pile on an extra couple of scoops of mash or pasta for added carbs. But by utilising the full power of protein you can get so much more from your macros. So, how will some extra chicken satisfy me more than a bag of crisps, I hear you ask?
Studies show protein reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin while also boosting peptide YY – a hormone that makes you feel full.
These effects on appetite can be powerful. According to Healthline, in one study, increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories made overweight women eat 441 fewer calories each day without intentionally restricting anything. Now that is a scientific cheat code if ever I’ve seen one.
Boosted Metabolism and Increased Fat Burning
While you might consider fat burning as an active process – and by that, I mean you have to go and run around like a maniac for a bit to make it happen – your body actually does a lot to cut excess weight on its own accord – if you give it the right tools, that is.
While varying factors like a good night’s sleep and when we eat can affect our metabolism, simply having a meal will give it a boost for a short while. That’s because your body uses calories to digest and harness the nutrients in food – a process which is referred to as the thermic effect of food.
And which types of foods have a high thermic effect? You guessed it, those that are high in protein. High protein intake has been shown to significantly accelerate your metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn a day by between 100 to around 260. It may not sound like much, but that’s roughly the equivalent of what you would burn walking 5,000 steps. I know which one is easier, but why not do both?
Speeds Up Recovery After an Injury
While we do what we can to avoid injury, unfortunately, it’s just part and parcel of any kind of exercise. Even professional athletes who have their warmups, nutrition and recovery curated by industry experts can’t avoid picking up niggles, knocks and strains from time to time.
What you can do, however, is fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to get it back up to speed as soon as possible. As we’ll get into in more detail, the protein forms the building blocks of your tissues and organs and is therefore vital for the repairing and rebuilding process after injury.
Another way to look at it is that it’s also key for injury prevention. While one of the long-term myths surrounding protein is that it’s bad for your bones, much like its effect on your kidneys, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Most long-term studies indicate that protein, including animal protein, has major benefits for bone health, and people who eat more protein tend to maintain bone mass better as they age and have a much lower risk of fractures. Don’t stay side-lined for longer than you have to – get your diet right today!
Building and gaining muscle
Ladies and gentlemen, the one you’ve all been waiting for. Now, before we get into the role and importance of protein in helping you achieve muscular hypertrophy let’s first look at what happens to your rig when you work out.
Put simply, when you place an extra load on your muscles during exercise you create tiny micro tears – hence the soreness. These are nothing to worry about, in fact, they’re an essential part of the process of getting bigger and stronger. Consider this as a muscle protein breakdown which then leads to an accelerated muscle protein synthesis over the following 24 hours.
Basically, you need to repair what you’ve damaged, and the amino acids in protein are the Lego pieces which allow you to do just that and more. But don’t just think of protein as something which should only be utilised if you want to ‘bulk up’. It is a vital tool for recovery after any form of workout, and as we’ve previously covered it brings a tonne of great benefits to the table past just ‘getting big’.
What’s more, if you’re looking to cut weight and retain muscle while doing it then upping your protein intake will be one of the smartest decisions you could make.
The amount of protein you’ll need is very much specific to your body weight and goals, and you can work that out using our handy macro calculator – but just know that if you’re looking to get those gains you can’t afford to sleep on your protein intake.
Helps You Stay Fit as You Age
Remember me telling you that protein isn’t just about aesthetics? Well, this is a prime example of that my friends. Unless you’re Peter Pan, getting old is an unfortunate inevitability we all have to face.
And while the latter stages of life bring their own perks and joys, your body will gradually decline as the year’s pass. Part of this process is that your muscles slowly weaken.
The most severe cases are referred to as age-related sarcopenia, which is one of the main causes of frailty, bone fractures, and reduced quality of life among older adults.
While staying active and lifting weights can work wonders to keep you feeling young, protein is also key in limiting age-related muscle deterioration. Start looking after yourself now and your body will thank you in the coming years.
Now you might be asking what foods have protein. The answer nowadays is not as simple thanks to the scientific breakthroughs of vegan protein and them becoming delicious powders and foods. Some obvious answers are eggs, white meat and fish. There are very few disadvantages of protein and as long as you are consuming the correct levels of macros it will no doubt do your body lots of good and very little bad.