Protein is one of the three key macronutrients, but can also come with a lot of questions. So often, when it comes to health and fitness, the focus is on reducing carbs and the ‘fat free’ movement. It is not uncommon for protein to be left behind. When it is addressed, people are cautious of it because they are afraid of getting ‘bulky’.
The fact of the matter is that protein is an essential building block of life. It is crucial to getting a result with your health and fitness no matter what the goal. A lot of people do not understand the importance of it, how it works, the role it has in the body and how to successfully incorporate it into the daily nutrition plan.
Today we try and get those protein questions answered.
Question #1 – What is protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient for the human body. It build body tissue and can also be used as an energy source. It is made up of amino acids, and the body for growth and maintenance, needs them.
Aside from water, proteins are the most abundant kind of molecules in the body. Protein can be found in all cells of the body and is the major structural component of all cells in the body, especially muscle. Long story short, it is a very very important part of our make-up!
Protein is also one of the 3 macronutrients that we need to consume on a daily basis to ensure that we have a balanced nutritional intake. It can be found in meat & vegetable products as well as numerous supplements.
Question #2 – Why is protein important?
When it comes to our health and fitness, the importance of protein must never be underestimated. They build muscle tissue, which in turn helps to speed up the metabolism. They also repair damaged tissue in the body.
As the role of strength training is to build and replace the existing muscle tissue, the best thing you can do to help aid effective muscle recovery is to ensure that you have protein ready to consume pre/post workout.
If your body does not get enough protein, then it will seriously struggle to adapt to any exercise regime effectively.
Question #3 – What Is The role of protein in weight loss?
Protein is essential when it comes to losing weight in a responsible manner. You can definitely lose weight without the necessary amounts of protein in your nutritional intake, but you will do it in such a way that could lead to muscle deterioration not growth.
In order to lose weight, you need to burn energy. In order to burn as much energy as possible, you need to have your metabolism working at a high rate. The best way to speed up your metabolism (combined with regular meals), is to ensure that your muscle mass is working efficiently.
In order to make your muscle mass work as efficiently as possible, you need to ensure it is getting the right amount of protein to replace existing stores. This will help current muscle tissue grow and get repaired whilst allowing new muscle tissue to grow and develop.
If you are not getting the right amount of protein in at this fundamental level, then the whole process does not work as efficiently as it should do and weight loss becomes more challenging.
Regular protein intake will also mean that muscles will grow and develop at an increased rate. This ensures that when the weight does come off, there has been enough muscle tissue developed to allow for a more defined and toned frame.
Please note: This is not about ‘bulking up’ and getting huge muscles. In order to do that you need to be following a highly specialized training and nutritional program. This is about ensuring that the muscles that you do have are working as efficiently as possible and allowing you to burn as much energy as possible.
Incorporating protein into your nutritional intake
The best way to incorporate protein into your nutritional intake is to have it regularly. As the body has a slower absorption rate for protein, it is better to give it smaller amounts to digest regularly, than one giant lump each day.
Protein is also better absorbed when it is linked in with a carbohydrate so always ensure that you are eating a balanced meal!
Effective sources of protein include:
- Meats, products from milk, eggs soy and fish
- Legumes, nuts and seeds
- Some wholegrains
It is also important to understand that you do not need to have meat with every meal either. A lot of people feel that for the rest of their life they will need to eat meat with all meals. Quite often this can be a prospect that is not very enticing. Make sure that you research the amount of protein in various options, and create a good balance between different food sources.
What about Protein Supplements?
Protein supplements have been getting a bit of a bad rap recently. There is a bit of a stigma that they are for “bulking” and for replacing meals. As their name indicates, there are in-fact SUPPLEMENTS, not replacements. They should always be consumed as a part of a healthy and balanced nutrition plan.
They can be a really effective way of increasing the protein intake if you are too busy to eat, struggle to eat enough protein for the day, or not the best at planning.
The best form of protein supplement would be a protein powder as they are less processed (if you find the right one), than alternatives such as protein bars.
What to look out for when shopping for a protein powder:
- The less ingredients the better. The closer it is to the original the better. Try and keep the ingredients to less than a handful and you will do well.
- No sugar! Lots of protein powders add sugar to get their flavor, this is not something that the body needs, make sure you read the nutritional label before purchase.
- Does it taste good? If you do not enjoy the flavor of your protein powder it will be hard and harder to drink each time. Purchase a sample before buying to make sure you know if you like it or not.
Protein is essential for everyone to achieve their health and fitness goals. The body needs it to survive, and you will only get the best results possible if you are incorporating it into your nutrition plan. Try and have it consistently. Mix up the types that you are having and if you cannot fit it in all the time, supplement with a protein shake!
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