I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures on social media of flavorful protein pancakes, protein waffles, muffins, cupcakes, and other delicious creations. Us fitness-goers like to get creative with how we supplement our intake of protein!
High-protein diets are on the rise as people are becoming more and more educated with the “whey” our body works (get it?). Low carb, low fat, low calorie, Atkins, South Beach: these are all dieting fads that people try when attempting to lose weight. Some may lose weight and keep it off, some may not. The simplest method is very often the best – that’s healthy eating, consisting of adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
The Importance of Protein
Fitness fanatics know how vital it is to consume the correct amount of protein in their day, but not everyone understands the importance, whether you’re a meat-eater or not – vegans still need to consume the appropriate amount of protein as well. There are many sources of protein that aren’t byproducts of any animals: try almonds, pecans, lentils, black beans, quinoa, and tofu.
Did you know that your body can show you signs and symptoms that you’re lacking specific nutrients by craving other things, or having bodily changes? Not sure if you’re short changing your body on what it needs for fuel? Here are five examples of how your body is telling you that you need to add more protein into your diet.
1. You feel weak and exhausted after a workout day
You’re tired, feeling like you always need a nap. After a long hard leg or back day, your muscles are depleted, so it’s common to feel achy and run-down. Protein is the major source of tissue repair. Your muscles need this to refuel to assist with repairing and rebuilding. Eat a protein-loaded snack before and after workout to ensure fuel during your workout, and post-workout recovery. Good sources are peanut butter and an apple, a protein shake, fruit and Greek yogurt.
2. You’re getting sick more frequently
This also goes along with #1. Your muscles aren’t the only things that protein helps assist. Protein is needed to build all the compounds in our immune systems. If you’re an overall healthy person but you find yourself getting sick more often than others, a protein deficiency may be to blame.
3. You crave sweets and dessert
One of protein’s most important functions is that it keeps our blood sugar steady. This means if you’re hypoglycemic (lacking sugar) your glucose levels will be all over the place, encouraging you to reach for a quick fix like a candy bar or chocolate. If you eat sugar without protein, your blood sugar will immediately rise, but without protein it doesn’t have a lasting effect, therefore causing the up and down spikes throughout your day.
Supplementing your sweet snack with a handful of almonds or a cup of Greek yogurt will still satisfy your brain that you’re eating something sweet, but you will be adding 10-15 grams of protein into your system at the same time, which is what your body is actually craving!
4. Your brain is in a fog
This goes along with the fluctuation of your blood sugar and craving sweets. When your body sugar fluctuates up and down all day your mental state suffers. You feel like you can’t focus and complete a long day of work. As mentioned before, protein is a long acting source of fuel, it helps maintain your blood sugar over time instead of having spikes from short acting carbs or sugar.
5. You just can’t seem to get full, and stay full
Scientists have found that the peptides, products of digested protein, can actually block the MOR sensors in your brain, which curbs the appetite. These protein-created peptides send signals to the brain that are transmitted back to the stomach. The stomach is then stimulated to release glucose, which suppresses the desire to eat. Therefore, the more protein you consume, the less cravings and unwanted hunger you have!
How much protein do I need?
To ensure you are consuming an adequate amount of protein, do the math! Multiply your weight in pounds, by 0.4-1.0 depending on your exercise level. If you are more sedentary, aim for the lower number; if you lift weights 5x a week, aim for the higher number.
Example: 150 pounds (your weight) x 0.8 (moderate exercise) = 120grams protein/day