The Importance of Protein!
Proteins are building blocks of your muscles and are also part of the foods that boost your metabolism and fat-burning potential. They are made of long chains of amino acids, which are important molecules that we get from our diet. Even though amino acids can be found in a variety of foods, including vegetables, the biggest sources are those that come from animals (meat, fish, dairy, eggs and to a lesser extent certain seeds and beans).
We need proteins every day because they are used for building, maintaining, and repairing of almost every part of our bodies. Vital organs, muscles, tissues and some hormones are made from proteins. Additionally, they also create hemoglobin and important antibodies, and are responsible for maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Simply put, life would not exist without proteins.
The average amount of protein that every person needs is half the body weight in protein a day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you will need about 75 grams of protein each day.
Do You Have a Protein Deficiency?
Mayo clinic researcher Jan van Deursen, Ph.D., has found that certain proteins play very important role in aging. In his study, van Deursen and his team created genetically modified mice that had a protein deficiency in just one type of protein (BubR1). The research team has discovered that the mice deficient in this important protein aged five times faster when compared to normal mice.
The researchers believe that this holds true in the human body, too, with a protein deficiency leading to heart problems, cataracts, and kyphosis or muscle atrophy. In addition to this, a low protein intake can also result in the following symptoms:
- Slow metabolism
- Inability to lose weight
- Trouble building muscle mass
- Constant fatigue
- Low energy levels
- Lack of concentration
- Frequent mood swings
- Pain in the muscle, bones, and joints
- Slow healing of the wounds
- Blood sugar changes that can lead to diabetes
- Weak immune system
9 Signs of Low Protein Intake
- High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol and triglycerides usually occur as a result of high intake of fats, high-processed/high-sugar diets, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation. If you have a habit of eating sugary foods, refined carbs, and packaged products instead of protein, it is very likely that your cholesterol levels will increase, which can lead to less efficient processing of fats by the liver. Some studies have even shown that low protein intake increases the risk of heart disease.
- You Are Feeling More Anxious And Moody Than Before
Amino acids are also the building blocks for the neurotransmitters that are responsible for the control of your mood. Normal protein intake helps the brain to synthesize hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which can significantly improve your mood.
- Your Workouts Are Suffering
As you probably know, we need proteins to build new muscle mass. Therefore, if your diet is low in proteins, you may experience muscle atrophy, fatigue, and even fat gain. In fact, even if your exercise intensity is stronger than ever before, you won’t experience any positive results if your diet can’t provide tissue repair or satisfy your energy needs.
- Bad Sleep Habits
Bad sleep habits and insomnia can be associated with unstable blood sugar levels, high cortisol levels and reduced production of serotonin. Frequent changes of blood sugar levels during the day can continue throughout the night. Carbohydrates need much more insulin when compared fat or protein. Eating protein-rich foods before sleeping can help normalize tryptophan and serotonin production, without having a negative impact on glucose levels. As a matter of fact, it was found that protein even reduces the absorption of sugar during a meal.
- You Have “Brain Fog”
Proteins are needed for many brain functions. Brain fog, poor concentration, and inability to learn new things are clear signs which show that you are low in neurotransmitters you need to focus (such as dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine). Neurotransmitters are synthesized in the brain with the help of amino acids, and many studies have found that a balanced diet which consists of enough protein can improve your learning and motor skills.
- You Are Gassy And Can’t Go To The Bathroom
Amino acids are needed for an array of metabolic and digestive functions. If your body feels fatigued due to lack of proteins, muscle contractions in your GI tract and digestion will suffer the most.
- Your Pants Are Feeling Tighter
Even though sometimes they have more calories than carbs, protein-rich foods can prevent overeating because they increase satiety to a greater extent than fats and carbohydrates. They will also help normalize your blood sugar and can reduce food cravings.
- Your Menstrual Cycle Is Irregular
The medical condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common reason why women suffer from irregular periods and infertility. Two main risk factors for PCOS are obesity and prediabetes or diabetes. As a matter of fact, insulin resistance affects between 50–70 percent of all women who suffer from PCOS. Diets low in proteins and high in sugar and carbs are major contributors to insulin resistance, inflammation, constant fatigue, and weight gain. All these factors disrupt hormonal balance in women (including that of estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA), which is needed for a regular cycle.
- You Are Experiencing Injuries More Often And Your Wounds Are Healing Slowly
A diet that is low in proteins significantly increases the risk of muscle loss, bone weakness, slow bone healing, fractures, and osteoporosis. Our bodies need protein because it increases calcium absorption. Some recent studies have found that older people with the greatest bone losses are those with a low protein intake (between 16–50 grams daily). Another study has also shown that a diet high in amino acids helps treat muscle loss caused by aging (sarcopenia).
How Much Protein Do We Need?
Every human being has different protein needs. Gender, age, body weight, the level of activity or exercise all determine how much protein you need.
- According to the USDA, the recommended daily minimum intake of protein for adults with average weight and activity level is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.
- Note that these are just minimum amounts and they might be too low in case of pregnancy or high level of activity.
- These amounts are equal to eating about 0.36 grams of protein for every pound that you weigh. However, many people feel better when they increase their protein intake and aim to eat about 0.5 grams of protein for every pound (Example: if your weight is 180 pounds, you should eat about 90 grams of protein daily).
- If this math is confusing, remember that most experts recommend consuming about 20–30 percent of your overall daily calories from protein-rich foods.
The Best Protein Sources
The best way to get enough protein is by eating a mix of plant-based and animal-based foods. Although animal products contain more protein per calorie when compared to most plants, eating too much meat, fish, eggs or dairy every day is not the best thing you can do for your health.
Additionally, vegetarian proteins are also a great source of antioxidants, fiber, electrolytes and other essential nutrients, so try including them in your meals instead of meat as often as possible.
- There are many vegetarian and vegan protein options that can provide a high amount of protein: all types of beans and legumes, especially lentils, mung beans, adzuki beans; unprocessed grains like buckwheat, quinoa, oats, and amaranth; and nuts and seeds like chia, hemp, flax, and almonds; and vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, and spinach.
- When it comes to protein powders, the best options are cricket protein, pea protein, and bone broth protein.
- The best animal-based protein options include wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef, turkey, and organic chicken.
Health Benefits of Proteins
- Improve the body’s ability to burn calories
- Boost energy levels
- Speed up muscle recovery after workout
- Accelerate recovery from injuries
- Normalize blood sugar levels
- Improve brain function
- Normalize cholesterol levels