Considered one of the essentials for a healthy body, protein is no doubt important. However, most people don’t fully understand the profound power of protein.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the effects that protein intake can have on the body. Below is a closer look at the many benefits of protein, as well as some common myths regarding this essential nutrient.
The Benefits of Protein
In short, protein is a valuable nutrient that the human body needs in order to grow, repair cells and work properly. Protein is found in everything from bones and muscles to skin and hair. Take a look at some of the most noteworthy benefits of protein:
1. Adds lean tissue mass
Unfortunately, a lot of people lose lean muscle mass when they lose weight. Protein helps deter this muscle loss by keeping the metabolic rate high and feeding lean muscle cells what they need to stay strong.
2. Reduces hunger
Protein takes longer for the body to break down and utilize, which means it may help you feel satiated for longer. Some studies have shown that people who consume 30% of their calories per day as protein eat an average of 441 fewer calories daily.
3. Reduces belly fat
Because protein reduces cravings, keeps you satiated and helps the body burn calories, this nutrient can also help reduce belly fat. Abdominal fat can be especially hard to get rid of, but people who eat more quality protein in their diets tend to have less belly fat.
4. Supports muscle development
If you’re trying to build muscle through strength or resistance training, be sure to include ample amounts of protein in your diet. Protein offers the building blocks the body needs to build muscle.
5. Improves bone density
Bone mineral density is incredibly important. Losing bone density may lead to osteoporosis, but protein can help prevent bone loss. Several studies have pointed out that good protein intake is linked to better bone mineral density levels.
6. Supports brain function
Protein concentrations in the brain are second only to water. Protein supports the neurotransmitters that have to communicate with one another for the brain to function properly.
7. Supports better sleep
Protein helps deter midnight munchies and hunger pangs that might otherwise rouse you from sleep. This may explain why studies have shown that people who eat a heavy-protein diet while on a weight-loss plan sleep better.
8. Decreases blood pressure
If you struggle with high blood pressure, a protein-rich diet may help. Studies have shown that increased protein intake is linked to lower blood pressure.
Good Sources of Protein
Numerous foods are protein-rich, so you don’t necessarily have to be a meat or animal product eater in order to give your body the protein it needs. Some good sources of protein include:
- Lean meats, such as chicken breast and seafood
- Egg whites
- Low-fat dairy
- Nuts and seeds, such as peanuts and pecans
- Beans, lentils, peas and soybeans
- Whole grains, such as millet or quinoa
- Vegetables, such as spinach
- Fruits, such as cherries or avocados
Protein supplements are also an option for people who don’t get an adequate amount of protein. The recommended intake for men is 56 grams per day, and women should take in at least 46 grams of daily protein.
Prevailing Myths About Protein
Myth #1: All proteins are the same.
All proteins are not the same. Each type offers different levels of amino acids and breaks down in the body uniquely. For example, whey protein is different from soy protein.
Myth #2: The more protein, the better.
Not necessarily. The body will not use more protein than what it needs. If you take in too much protein, you can get too much of a good thing.
Myth #3: Fatigue usually means not enough protein.
Fatigue from protein-deficiency only occurs if the levels are extremely low. Therefore, fatigue is most often a sign that something else is going on, such as a lack of good sleep.
Myth #4: More protein guarantees weight loss.
While it is true that protein curbs your appetite and helps the body burn fat, protein doesn’t cause you to lose weight all by itself. The best plan is to include protein as part of a well-balanced diet and exercise regimen.
Final Thoughts on the Power of Protein
In the end, protein is an important nutrient whether you’re leading a healthy lifestyle or trying to lose weight. With a protein-rich diet, you may see a lot of benefits, including weight loss support and reduced hunger. However, the type of protein you eat — and your commitment to eating healthy and exercising — have a lot to do with the benefits you reap from a protein-rich diet.
About the Author:
Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity.