What is Protein?
Protein is the building block of many of our bodies cells and one of the 3 macro-nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrate) which our bodies need to survive. Our body uses protein to make our hair, nails, enzymes, hormones, blood, bones, skin and muscles.
What can Protein do for me?
Protein and Fat Loss
Protein can be used by the body for energy, but it takes twice as much effort to convert protein into energy. This means more calories are burnt converting the protein into energy so the net number of calories is now lower. We call this an inefficient food since it is not easily converted into energy.
Protein has also been proven to be the most satisfying macro-nutrient. This means your meals are more filling and you won't feel like you need to eat again anytime soon. This is because protein has a minimal effect on your blood sugar levels (which is great if you are diabetic). So, if your meal contains a lot of protein you are less likely to snack again later like you might do if you had a meal high in carbohydrates and fats. This means less calories eaten through the day.
Also, a huge benefit of feeling full means you don't feel like you are starving yourself. This means eating well to lose weight can be sustainable, so you can keep it up for the rest of your life. Feeling full when you are on a "diet", could be the difference between you sticking with it and going back to putting weight on.
Protein and Muscle Mass
Now a lot of people may think they don't really want to build big muscles. That is not what protein will do to you. If you do good resistance training sessions while losing weight you will burn more fat and also build muscle in its place. Muscle is also much denser than fat so takes up less room, so you will still get physically smaller.
Protein is the building block for muscle so we need an adequate amount of protein to let our bodies build and repair the muscle as we use it. As an added bonus, having more muscle mass means your body will naturally burn more calories.
Building muscle mass as you grow older is essential for later life. After age 30 your muscles start to atrophy (get smaller), so we have to fight this using resistance training and supplying our bodies with enough protein. If this is done throughout your life as you get older you will maintain your strength, power and mobility, to help you stay independent.
How much protein do I need?
The NHS recommends 10% of your daily calories to come from protein which is 50g of protein. That is like two 3oz chicken breasts.
But having more protein will not harm you. As long as you burn more calories than you eat then you will lose weight. Eating more protein could help some people stick to their healthy eating, since it is more filling and is inefficient, but not everyone will find a high protein diet is right for them. But making sure you get enough protein every day is essential.
Sources of Protein
Here is a list of great sources of protein:
- Dairy (Milk, Cheese and Yogurt)