Are you a giant bodybuilder looking to get more jacked? An athlete looking to perform and recover at their peak? A regular gym goer just trying to look a bit better naked? A weekend warrior trying to improve their health? No matter your goals, including adequate protein in your diet is key. Here’s why:
It Will Fill You Up
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. This is a fancy way of saying it’s going to fill you up and keep you feeling full far longer than carbohydrate or fat.
Ever had a meal or snack and felt hungry 30 minutes later? My bet is it didn’t contain an adequate amount of protein. Protein helps squash hormones like ghrelin, GLP-1, Peptide YY, and glucagon. You don’t need to be able to pronounce those, but just know that when you start to feel hungry, it’s because those hormones are starting to creep back in. Protein helps push that back a few hours, helping to minimise cravings and supporting more sensible food choices.
It’s Important for Muscle
Probably the most well-known fact about protein, but an important point nevertheless. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle, so if you want to grow muscle, you need adequate protein.
But there’s much more to protein than muscle gain. When we’re in a weight loss phase, your body’s first instinct is to break down muscle to use as fuel. Not great. Instead, following a high protein diet and regular training program can help retain muscle in a calorie deficit, meaning the weight we lose is not going to come from your hard-earned gains.
It Helps Immune Function
Soon the dreaded cold and flu season will be upon us. During this time it’s important to get enough sleep and stay away from snotty toddlers, but it’s just as important to eat adequate amounts of protein. Our immune system is actually made up of protein, so if we don’t eat enough, our body won’t be in top germ-fighting condition.
It Helps with Weight Loss
As well as helping you eat less by filling you up more, your body actually uses more calories digesting and metabolising protein than it does carbohydrate or fat. Does this mean you can eat as much chicken breast as you want and you’ll wake up with a rippling 6 pack? No. But it does mean that prioritising protein consumption is going to help us burn a few extra calories a day.
Ok, so hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you of the importance of including adequate protein in your diet. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
A Meal is Not a Meal Without Protein
Like the title says, make sure you aim to include some form of protein (meat, seafood, tofu, beans and legumes, eggs, dairy) at each and every meal and snack. It might take a bit of adjusting, but good things will happen.
Start Your Day with Protein
I know this sounds similar to the previous tip, but arguably the MOST important time of the day to have some form of protein is when you break your fast. Doing so sets you up for the day and helps prevent that mid-morning muffin.
Spread Out Your Intake
Do you know what’s better than a 60g serve of protein? Two 30g serves of protein. A 20-40g serve of protein activates the MTOR pathway, aka the light switch for muscle growth. The more we turn that light switch on, the better.
Eating 60g of protein at once won’t lead to an early death, but if you’re looking to maximise your results, moving from less frequent, large servings of protein to more frequent, smaller servings of protein is going to be better in the long run.
Eat Something After You Train
This is probably a blog post by itself but basically, the whole 30-minute anabolic window idea died a long time ago, so don’t panic if you can’t walk out of the gym and into the kitchen. Instead, once you’ve finished your session, eat a decent meal within 1-3 hours of finishing. It can be a shake, but a mixed meal of real food made up of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats is going to give you much more bang for your buck.
If you need help with meal prep reach out. To read more information regarding protein intake why not check out our sports dieticians blog here.