Protein is a type of molecule in food that is broken down into amino acids. There are two types of amino acids: essential amino acids that are not made by our body, and non-essential amino acids that can be made by our body. Proteins are essential for our body, and if weight-loss is your main goal then protein will help you to lose fat without losing muscle, but the role of protein is not only to build muscles there are several ways protein play an important in our body.
Roles of protein:
- Creation of collagen and bones.
- Needed in part of detoxification especially in the liver.
- Needed for proper digestion because protein creates hydrochloric acid which could be helpful for people who have digestion problems, and it also protects the lining of the gastrointestinal tract because it is made of collagen, and muscles.
- Helps promote alertness, learning, and memory because protein helps in the production of neurotransmitters, and it helps up regulate the brain’s ability to utilize sugars particularly glucose, so a protein deficiency could diminish brain’s ability to process information.
- It aids in sexual arousal, and sexual function.
- It is also helps for the energy production, and at balancing blood sugar levels.
- It augments satiety hormones which make us feel fuller for longer.
- It is needed for proper function of the immune system.
- It is anti-oxidants.
It is essential to get nutrient-dense protein sources such as wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken egg whites*, non-fat greek yogurt*, non-fat cottage cheese*, grass-fed whey protein etc. We often hear that nuts, legumes, and soybeans are good sources of protein but they are not. Nuts are good source of fat as they contain 70% of fat, legumes are mostly carbohydrates, and soybeans only contain 35% of protein. For vegans and vegetarians you can find good protein powders such as rice, pea, hemp etc.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
You should have about a third of your plate filled with protein at each meal which should be about the size of your palm. You should get between 30 and 55g of protein at each meal, so 100-200g per day. It is important to get a serving of at least 30g of protein so your body can refresh and renew your lean tissue which is also called muscle protein synthesis. Eating protein also helps you to feel full longer. It also enables our body to keep our muscle, and burn fat. After an intense workout it is recommended to eat 30g of protein within 20 minutes, to help repair your muscles, and reduce muscular soreness. For a post-workout, drinking a protein shake is one of the best source of protein you can get as it gets quickly absorbed by your body.
I often read that we should not eat too much protein as it will hurt our kidneys, and liver. There is actually no scientific evidence proving it. The reason we may think that protein is bad for our kidneys and liver is because when we eat protein our body go through a process to extract the nitrogen from the protein and use it which generates ammonia. Then our liver converts ammonia to urea which is extracted by our kidneys through urine. Our kidneys’, and liver’s job is to extract nitrogen from the protein we eat which is essential to build raw material in our body such as blood, nails, hair, DNA etc. Thinking that we should limit our protein consumption to help our kidneys, and liver is like trying to think less to give a break to our brain.
The only people who should worry about the amount of protein they eat are people who already have kidney problems. If you are healthy, then you should not worry about it, and unless you get protein in form of whey protein it will be hard for you to overeat protein as you will be full before you eat too much of it. If you need scientific evidence showing the effects on protein on health the American Cancer Society found out that “seafood and poultry have been associated with lower rates of coronary heart disease and cancer” and according to Loren Cordain, “higher intake of lean animal protein decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis, but it does not impair kidney functions.
Protein For Weight-Loss
If you want to lose weight, but do not want to lose muscles then you should eat more protein at each meal. Focus on getting 30g of nutrient-dense proteins to trigger muscle protein synthesis which will increase your energy expenditure, raise your metabolic rate, and will make you lose fat. You should not worry about the health risk of eating too much protein because protein are very satiating, so you will be full before being able to eat too much of it. Your diet should consist of at least 8 cups of water every day.
*I am not recommending that you limit your fat consumption but when eating dairy products choosing non-fat will permit you to increase your protein intake without increasing your fat and sugar intake. The same goes for egg whites; there is 91% of protein vs 35% in whole eggs so choosing egg whites as a protein will be better than choosing whole eggs. If you choose to consume whole eggs then two eggs will count as one serving of protein, and one serving of fat.
Check my blog about protein powders and bars to see my favorite products that I use on a daily basis.