Forming the key ingredient in a wide range of fitness plans, protein is consumed to gain muscle, lose weight, and help maintain a healthy body. No matter what diet you follow, you won’t accomplish your goals without it. With so much attention placed on this ever-popular yet necessary macronutrient, protein has become the sole focus of bars, powders, supplements, and beverages. Discover the basics of protein and how it helps you attain the body you truly desire.
What is Protein and What’s it Made Out of?
One reason why it’s a terrible idea to avoid protein is because it’s not only found in animals but in every cell of the human body as well. To understand what protein is, it’s vital to know that it’s comprised of 22 amino acids which are divided into three categories:
- Essential Amino Acids: Vital but must be obtained through food.
- Nonessential Amino Acids: The body produces these from proteins we eat.
- Conditional Amino Acids: These are useful during times of stress or illness.
Protein is Also One of Three Macronutrients
There are dozens of nutrients our body needs to maintain optimal health, but only three are macronutrients. Macronutrients are the three major categories of nutrients that are needed in large quantities each day to provide energy and keep you healthy. In addition to fat and carbohydrates, protein is the third macronutrient, and regardless of which diet you’re following, it’s important to get enough protein in your diet on a daily basis.
Protein Benefits– Not Just a Muscle Builder
When the average person thinks of protein and fitness, it’s probably a muscle-bound person that comes to mind. Although protein is crucial for growing and maintaining muscle, it provides numerous other benefits that support your daily life as well. Even if you’re not trying to be a bodybuilder and have no desire to increase your strength, protein offers many benefits.
Your Hair and Nails are Made of Protein
Some women in particular become concerned that too much weight training or protein consumption might lead them to a bulky, intimidating appearance that they might not want. This is shortsighted when you consider that protein is crucial for keeping two of your most feminine qualities– your hair and nails — healthy and strong.
Protein Builds and Repairs Tissues in Your Body
Even if you could care less about protein’s most notable job, building muscle, it’s still crucial to eat enough because it repairs tissues within your body. This includes tissues of your organs, gum tissue, and aiding your natural healing process. If someone is injured and makes a quick recovery, there’s a pretty good chance that their diet was rich in protein.
Protein Makes the Chemicals and Hormones that Regulate your Mood
While you may not be familiar with hormones like serotonin and cortisol, it’s important to know that they play a major role in regulating your mood and keeping your stress at manageable levels. These, and all other hormones are comprised of proteins, so next time you’re feeling particularly moody, consider whether this powerful macronutrient may be lacking in your diet.
Protein Builds a lot More Than Just Muscle
Protein can be considered the building block of our body, and although muscles get the most attention, it actually is responsible for replenishing blood, skin, cartilage, bones— and of course, muscle. This really highlights the fact that if you’re avoiding protein, you’re leaving your body without the crucial fuel it needs to rebuild everything from blood to bones.
How To Ensure You’re Getting Enough Protein
Now that you’re aware of the importance of this vital macronutrient and how it benefits every cell in your body, it’s crucial to know where to find it so you consume enough of it each day. The first step of that is to understand the foods that contain high amounts of protein. Although meats have the most, you may be surprised at some of the other options.
Where to Naturally Find Protein in Your Diet
In the intense debate between vegans and those who choose to eat meat, the greatest argument on the side of meat eaters is that animal products contain abundant amounts of protein. Here are some examples of why it’s easy to find high quantities of protein in meat products:
– One ounce of skinless poultry contains 7g of protein
– Most types of beef contain 7g of protein per ounce
– Most types of cooked fish contain 6g of protein per ounce
Protein from Non-Animal Based Products
Vegans and vegetarians avoid animal products, but still have a need for this crucial nutrient. Luckily, protein is also found in beans, legumes, cheese, seeds, and soy. Plus, small amounts are found in certain fruits and veggies, like avocado and broccoli for example. Finding enough protein can be one of the greatest challenges in a meatless diet. Once you learn about the foods to include, then getting enough protein can be easy.
Supplementing Your Diet With Protein
If you’re not a fan of the foods that are rich in protein or you simply want to increase your intake to build muscle mass, protein supplements are widely available. For the most part, these protein supplements take the form of powders that you stir into water to make a nutrient-rich shake. These protein powders come in various flavors, prices, and additives, but they all have the goal of getting you the protein you need, preferably with minimal sugar and calories.
While numerous protein bars, brownies, and cookies are available to get you that boost of protein on the go, it’s vital to look closely before making a purchase. That’s because, in the effort to enhance the taste of these bars, many brands resort to adding extra sugar that can work against your fitness goals. Fortunately, many companies consider this and provide high-quality protein snacks with zero-calorie sugar substitutes, such as monk fruit.
Get Enough Protein in Your Diet for a Healthy Body and Mind
Perhaps next time you think about protein, it will be excellent overall health that comes to mind rather than bulging muscles. With vital functions like building bones, restoring tissue, and aiding in almost all bodily functions, it’s clear that muscle-bound reputation of protein doesn’t do it justice. However you take-in protein, it’s crucial you consume enough to keep your body functioning properly and your mind performing at its absolute best.