Guide to Healthy Protein – 5 Important Facts You Need to Know
Protein First – 5 Important Facts You Need to Know
What Are Proteins?
Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids – the building blocks of life. These amino acids are joined together by chemical bonds and then folded in different ways to create three-dimensional structures that are important to our body’s functioning.
Why Is It Important To Get Enough Protein?
Since our bodies need proteins and amino acids to produce important molecules in our body – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies – without an adequate protein intake, our bodies can’t function well at all.
Protein helps replace worn out cells, transports various substances throughout the body, and aids in growth and repair.
Consuming protein can also increase levels of the hormone glucagon, and glucagon can help to control body fat. Glucagon is released when blood sugar levels go down. This causes the liver to break down stored glycogen into glucose for the body.
It can also help to free fatty acids from adipose tissue – another way to get fuel for cells and make that body fat do something useful with itself instead of hanging lazily around your midsection!
How Much Protein Do You Need?
How much protein you need varies greatly from person to person and it is always best to consult a certified nutrition coach for an exact nutritional prescription.
The basic recommendation for protein intake is 1 gram per pound of lean body mass in untrained, generally healthy adults. Note this is based upon lean body mass, NOT body weight! The best way to determine your LBM (lean body mass) is to have an InBody Scan or Dexascan.
This amount of protein is only to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not necessarily optimal, particularly for people such as athletes who train regularly and hard.
This suggested protein intake is what’s necessary for basic protein synthesis (in other words, the creation of new proteins from individual building blocks).
Beyond the basics of preventing deficiency and ensuring a baseline of protein synthesis, we may need even more protein in our diets for optimal functioning, including good immune function, metabolism, satiety, weight management and performance. In other words, we need a small amount of protein to survive, but we need a lot more to thrive.
Can Our Bodies Store Protein?
We can only store so much protein at one time. The body’s protein stores fluctuate over the course of a day.
The important point here is that you can’t simply eat a 16-pound steak once and be done with it. The body needs its protein stores to be continually replenished, which means that you should consume moderate amounts of protein at regular intervals. This is why I always employ the Protein First rule at every meal and snack!
Can I Eat Too Much Protein?
The simple answer is yes. If you overeat protein, this extra protein can be converted into sugar or fat in the body. However, protein isn’t as easily or quickly converted as carbohydrates or fat, because the thermic effect (the amount of energy require to digest, absorb, transport and store protein) is a lot higher than that of carbohydrates and fat.
It is also worth noting that those people with hormone imbalances or sluggish metabolisms can definitely overdue protein and cause unwanted weight gain.
Protein is essential to life and adequate consumption is critical for improving your body composition. The best way to start figuring out if you are consuming enough protein is to log your food for a short period of time, or at least aim to get a fist size serving at every meal.
And remember the rule…Protein First!