You've probably heard ALL about protein but may not fully understand why it's actually such an essential part of our diet. We want to break it down for you and show you what it actually is, what it does to our bodies and the best places to source protein from no matter what your lifestyle.
What is Protein?
Before we start explaining exactly why a high protein diet is so essential, we want you to understand exactly what it is. Protein is a macro-nutrient which is basically a type of food that’s required within the daily diet in large amounts in order for your body to function and develop correctly. The other macro-nutrients that you need in your diet include fats and carbohydrates, but we’re going to just stick with the importance of Protein for now. It has the ability to help your body function correctly and therefore is a vital component of a healthy diet.
Proteins are made up of tiny little units which are commonly known as amino acids. All of these individual units are assembled in different ways in order to help build Proteins which is why you may have heard these being referred to as 'building blocks' before. The amount of amino acids that are used to form protein varies massively from protein to protein from just being a few to a few thousand. The final structure of various proteins are therefore different, leading to each amino acid chain (protein) helping your body in different ways. An example would be the amino acid chain that is used to create the white of an egg is completely different to that used in order to create a glass of milk which is why in 100G you will find a huge 11G of Protein in an egg white compared to 3.4G of Protein in a glass of Milk.
How Does Protein Help Fuel Our Body?
Protein plays a huge part in our body’s development and is the primary element utilised by our immune and digestive systems. The blood within our body also relies massively on the Protein that we intake from our diet in order to help keep our sugar levels down. Ensuring that you do get a sufficient level of Protein within your diet can therefore prevent sugar related illnesses such as Diabetes and thus lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle in the long term. Companies are now implementing corporate wellness programs with high protein diets to increase the health of their workforce and improve productivity. If you were to stop having Protein as part of your daily diet it would have a huge effect on body as it would then be forced to begin breaking down your muscles in order to produce the Protein that it needs. This is because although our bodies are brilliant at storing fats and carbohydrates, sadly, they’re not so great at storing Proteins and it is then necessary to constantly ensure that we are replacing the Proteins that we use.
Where Can I Find Protein?
Protein can mainly be found in the majority of animal products, though there are also plenty of other sources rich in Protein such as nuts and legumes which can be great alternatives. There are certain Protein rich foods that provide you with a higher intake that others so we’re going to show you our Top 10 foods for a high protein intake:
✔ Fish (such as Tuna, Salmon & Halibut)
✔ Lean Chicken
✔ Lean Beef & Veal
✔ Pork Loin
✔ Yoghurt, Milk & Soymilk
✔ Non-Fat Mozzarella
✔ Nuts & Seeds (such as Pumpkin, Squash and Watermelon Seeds)
What Are The Best Options If I’m Vegetarian?
Although Protein is well known for being mainly an animal based macronutrient, there’s no need to worry if you need to increase your Protein levels whilst leading a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle as there are plenty of options out there for you. These can include anything from different vegetables to high protein snacks and shakes made specifically to help increase your Protein intake with the added convenience of not having to cook. Again, if you lead a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle there are brilliant alternatives out there such as Soy Protein which is low in fat and high in protein along with being Lactose and Gluten free!
The Big Three Benefits
Protein is a vital nutrient that your body needs to not only function effectively but to survive. A whopping 20% of the human body is made up of protein! Every time you consume protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids and utilises it for a variety of crucial bodily functions, including the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. If your diet was lacking in protein it they would slowly start to break down our muscles to ensure that our body is getting the protein it needs. This is because our body is brilliant at storing fats and sugars but unfortunately pretty rubbish at storing proteins, therefore deeming it necessary to continually replace the proteins that our bodies use up. It will come as no surprise by now that protein is the number one supplement in the UK. Following a high protein diet is an effective way to ensure that you maximise all of the benefits of this powerful nutrient.
A high protein diet has a wide range of benefits from additional fat burning power to an improvement in skin, hair and nails but we’re going to go over our top 3 reasons as to why following in a protein rich diet is good for you.
It is scientifically proven that protein contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. When you follow a high protein diet you are feeding your body with the building blocks needed to repair and grow muscle mass whilst training. Following a training plan to increase muscle mass, along with a high protein diet helps to improve your strength. This additional strength makes your body more energy efficient and helps you to make it through the day with additional energy to spare. The increase in muscle mass also helps to raise your metabolism, which offers the added benefit of additional fat burning power.
Bodybuilders have used a high protein diet to load up on energy for decades; however it’s not just bodybuilders who are now benefiting from the additional energy that a high protein diet provides. The protein that you consume is broken down into 20 amino acids, a number of these amino acids are the body’s basic building blocks for energy. Have you noticed how many high protein breakfasts have made their way into the mass market? This is because additional protein provides a sustained form of energy, making breakfast or an hour before your workout the perfect time to consume protein for energy.
When the University of Birmingham studied the effects of high protein intake on endurance athletes, their results suggested that high protein intakes help endurance athletes absorb heavy training loads. The study recorded cycling time trial performance following intensified training. The group who consumed higher amounts of protein prior to training showed less reduction in performance when comparted to the group who did not take on additional protein.
The third big benefit of a high protein diet is that a diet rich in protein promotes satiety. This is the name given to that feeling of satisfactory fullness that you feel after you’ve eaten. If you cave to the temptation of bad carbs and sugary snacks, then this feeling will only last for a short while and this is where a protein rich diet comes in. Protein absorbs a lot slower than carbs which means your body will have this feeling for a lot longer and you will, in turn, snack a lot less. A great way to ensure that you have this feeling for as long as possible is by including protein rich foods in each meal that you have. This could include anything from beef, fish and eggs to plant based protein such as nuts, vegetables and fruits. You could also take advantage of protein rich drinks such as soy milk and grass fed whey protein powder.