Protein, along with fat and carbohydrates, is a macronutrient. That means our bodies need fairly large amounts of it on a daily basis. And unlike fat and carbs, protein cannot be stored away for later use, so that means we need to consume it on a daily basis. A diet high in protein is the new standard for health. Protein’s function in the body is not hard to understand: It builds and repairs tissue. Cells die by the millions every day and must be replaced. Athletic activities demand that new muscle tissue be created and protein is the only source that your body has in order to do this. In addition to building and repairing your muscles, here are 6 more benefits of a diet high in protein that you may not have been aware of.
Protein promotes learning and healthy brain function
The cognitive functions of your brain are dependent upon hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters, all of which require protein in order to work properly. Studies have shown that the central nervous system requires a number of amino acids found only in protein foods in order to function normally. Optimal sources of protein are fish, eggs and animal meat.
Protein helps to maintain bone health
Protein consumption has been shown to promote the absorption of calcium by your body, helping with new growth and bone metabolism. Research on the elderly in the US found that the greatest losses in bone density occurred in those with the lowest overall protein intake.
Protein helps you lose weight
Protein accelerates weight loss in two ways. The first is that it helps keep you feeling full, due to the suppression of the hunger hormone ghrelin that is responsible for the sharp pangs of hunger that you experience when you need to eat. The second is protein’s thermogenic effect, which means that your body will expend more energy digesting protein than it would fat or carbs, thus boosting your metabolism.
To take full advantage of the thermogenic effect, it is recommended that you space your meals out into several small ones throughout the day. A super-simple way to do this is to just drink a protein shake mid-morning and again in the mid-afternoon. Whey protein from a site like ARD Nutrition is the best for this, as it is an easily digested form of complete protein, meaning all the amino acids are present.
Protein promotes muscle growth
Protein is vital in building and maintaining muscle mass, especially when you are trying to restrict calories for weight loss. Diets high in protein have been shown to maintain muscle while simultaneously shedding fat.
Protein reduces cravings
Cravings sabotage diets more than any other factor. The best way to avoid them is to not allow them to occur in the first place. One study showed that increasing protein to 25 percent of daily calories reduced food cravings by 60 percent in overweight men.
Protein improves your mood
Amino acids found in protein are responsible for keeping your hormones in a healthy balance and operating properly, which stabilizes your mood and regulates anxiety. Protein also helps stabilize your blood sugar. Unstable blood sugar is a major cause of moods swings, including depression.
Choose your proteins wisely
Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Just like any foods, there are both good and bad sources of proteins. Salty deli meats and processed foods such as sausages and hot dogs may have a lot of protein, but the way they are made makes them unhealthy. Stick to whole food sources such as fish, grass-fed beef, seafood, eggs, nuts, and seeds.