Protein is one of the three major macronutrients. Protein, Fats, Carbs(Carbohydrates). They are divided into those three categories because nutritionally the body needs each everyday, and they are fundamentally different enough that one cannot replace the other in a healthy diet. Nutrition professionals believe that a balance of these nutritients to be crucial to health and weight management.
To understand protein use in the body, first of all, understand what is protein. Protein is meat including beef and poultry. It is also fish and eggwhites. Whey/Milk/Soy/Vegan protein powders too. These are considered whole proteins or primary sources of protein. They have a complete amino acid profile and are leanest without significant amounts of fat and carbs.
Amino acids are biologically and nutritionally important compounds that are the protein molecules used internally by the body when the food is broken down during digestion.
Secondary sources have “some” protein including whole or reduced fat milk, beans, legumes, seeds, yogurt, peanuts, tree nuts, whole eggs, whole or sprouted grains and even broccoli. While a few of these have all of the amino acid profile of whole proteins, most importantly they all also have other primary macronutrients to take into consideration. The trick to partial protein or secondary proteins is to balance all of your nutrients. If you rely on beans to get enough protein you may be consuming too much carb. Beans have both protein and carb. Nuts and nutbutters have more fat than protein. Whole eggs are high in fat and cholesterol. While some dietary fats are good for you, eating enough whole eggs to get a sufficient amount of protein will cause your fat to be too high. One egg has 30 calories from protein and over 40 calories from fat!
And broccoli? Well let’s just say it is near stomach stretching physically impossible to get a full serving of protein from broccoli and you still would not have a balanced source of protein compounds. One cup of Milk alone has 8 grams of protein, but also 13 grams of carbs with 12 of the 13 grams being from milk sugars like lactose.
Eggs are wonderful. Egg whites have protein without the fat, so I recommend that people in a high protein diet, eat more egg whites than whole eggs. One or two yolks is plenty of fat, yet you can benefit from another egg or two of the white part!
Why is protein important? While carbs and fat provide ready sources of energy, the protein molecule provides raw materials to feed cell regeneration. Carbs, or carbohydrates, are energy sources that always turn to fat if not burned off by the body’s activity level. Protein is first used for the raw materials for hair, skin, nails, brain cells, and of course muscle. Then the excess in one meal is converted to energy. This is why protein should be eaten in small meals throughout the day, while carbs and fats are timed for when the body needs the energy for exercise. Beware of using carbs and sugar for the energy to combat tiredness. Yes, that spike in sugar will spike alertness, but will also convert to fat if actual energy is not expended to burn it off!!
Many people believe that protein is what bodybuilders use to get big. While muscle protein does come from dietary protein, it does not directly cause muscle growth without the weightlifting and specific exercise strategy to require additional strength!
During a dieting phase, protein maintains muscle while reduction in carbs and fats (reduction: not elimination) help to place your body in a calorie deficit. Too little protein with a calorie deficit below what the body needs to run for basic activity, also can cause your body to cannibalize the muscle protein to provide the raw materials for other functions!
Therefore bodybuilders do not so much eat tons of protein to get big, but eat regular consistent amounts of protein to maintain what they’ve built in the gym!
How can protein benefit you? Seeking weight loss, or a fitter look, it is important to get your required nutrients from protein and then low calorie, high nutrient vegetables like broccoli, spinach, green beans, and kale etc. These foods are highly utilized in the body without adding to fat stores.
While more calorie dense than lettuce and salad greens, protein not only performs the vital task of building the structure of your lean body it also has the effect of creating a more satiated feeling from food. From the act of chewing through the greater calorie expenditure during digestion the effect of processing proteins is that your body uses more of the calories from this food.
Protein is a key macronutrient. It performs a different role in the body from fat and carbs.
To round out a balanced diet, next comes the energy required to do exercise. Depending on your energy expenditure from work, life, and exercise intensity add a carb for breakfast, before and after workouts, plus a healthy dietary fat at night for hormone balance with your proteins. These are some added strategies that a nutrition coach can help you with! Contact me for more information to help you get the nutrition you need, at the time of day it can benefit you the most, with the quantities you will need meet your specific goals!
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