Are you getting enough protein in your diet? While you may watch your calories, sugar and salt intake, you should also make sure you are ingesting enough protein. It plays a key role in the creation and maintenance of every cell in our bodies. It fuels our cells and powers our bodies. Since our bodies do not store protein, it is important to consume protein every day. Daily protein intake plays a role in keeping your cells in good shape and should be a part of your daily diet.
Protein is made up of amino acids, commonly known as building blocks, because they are attached in long chains. It is also considered a “macronutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy.
Your body needs protein for a couple of different reasons:
1. Build. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. In fact, your hair and nails are comprised mostly of protein.
2. Repair. Your body uses it to build and repair tissue.
3. Oxygenate. Red blood cells contain a protein compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. This helps supply your entire body with the nutrients it needs.
4. Digest. About half the dietary protein that you consume each day goes into making enzymes, which aids in digesting food, and making new cells and body chemicals.
5. Regulate. Protein plays an important role in hormone regulation.
In addition, protein can help you stay in shape by speeding recovery after intense exercise or injury, reducing muscle loss, building lean muscle, and curbing hunger. Protein keeps us full longer which means you'll be less tempted to snack throughout the day, helping keep weight down.
Some Common Myths About Protein
- Eating too much protein is bad for your kidneys. This simply isn't true, unless you have an underlying kidney issue or disease.
- You can't get enough protein if you're on a plant based diet. In fact, you can, but you will need to be strategic about it.
- Protein makes you bulky. FALSE. Eating too many calories for your needs will make you "bulky".
- Protein is just for bodybuilders. False again, everyone needs protein, refer to bullets 1-5 above.
When should you increase your protein intake beyond the minimum?
- If you are training hard and frequently
- If you have a physically demanding job
- If you are injured or recovering from an injury or surgery
- If you are dieting or in a deficit
Animal Based Protein Sources:
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
Plant Based Protein Sources:
- Brown Rice
- Black beans
- Kidney Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Hemp Seeds
- Chia Seeds
Talk to your doctor or personal trainer about how much protein you should be getting in your diet!