If you’ve been researching and/or talking with friends about what might be the best weight loss method, I’m sure the term macronutrients has been used. Protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. . .which has led to so many “fad” or trendy diets. The keto diet, in particular, has been touted by many as the best method. A diet high in protein and low in carbs may be somewhat successful short-term, but it isn’t truly sustainable for most, nor should it be truly encouraged. We all need protein! Limiting carbohydrates is best done by cycling them and in making sure you are taking in the cleanest form of complex carbs. Your body needs the fiber and other nutrients.
More on carbohydrates later, but for now, let’s get back to protein!! We all need protein in our diets daily to help our bodies repair cells and make new ones. Protein is also important for growth and development in children, teens, as well as pregnant women. The vast majority of fitness, health, and medical resources, such as WebMD, Healthline, agree on the benefits and importance of protein!
Protein is a very critical part of the processes that fuel energy and carry oxygen throughout our bodies in our blood. Quality protein also aids in making antibodies that fight infections and illnesses, helps maintain healthy cells, as well as creating new cells.
Let’s break down where you can find the best sources of protein first, and then the signs that you’re lacking protein:
1. The best sources of quality protein can be found in various food sources, and protein supplements. The best choices, naturally, are whole foods.
- Fish, specifically white fish (orange roughy, tilapia, mahi, triggerfish)
- Lean beef
2. Having a protein deficiency comes with many “warning” signs. If you’re experiencing any of these, I recommend that you add more protein into your diet AND begin tracking your meals to insure how many grams you’re taking in each day. (See last week’s blog about journaling!)
- Fatigue and weakness: A lack of protein over time can cause a loss of muscle mass, which naturally leads to losses in strength and stamina. This loss of strength can then lead to a loss of balance and begin to affect your metabolism. This can also lead to anemia, which makes you tired.
- Swelling: This one is the most surprising! One of the more common signs that your body is not getting enough protein is edema, or swelling. This can be evident in your abdomen, feet, legs and/or hands. There are proteins/amino acids that circulate in your blood that help prevent fluids from building up in your tissues. There are many other possibilities for this type of swelling, however, so always see your doctor if you have concerns!
- Hair, Nail, and Skin problems: The proteins of collagen, elastin, and keratin make up our hair, skin and nails. A lack of protein leads to brittle, thinning hair; dry and flaky skin; and deep ridges in your fingernails.
- Hunger: Protein is a big source of energy or fuel for our bodies. It makes sense that you’ll be hungry more often if your “tank” isn’t full. There are many studies that have proven eating foods rich in protein help keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day. The best example of this is eating a donut, muffin, or sugary cereal for breakfast then feeling incredibly hungry within 30 to 45 minutes. Try getting a protein-rich breakfast! You’ll feel fuller longer, and you’ll find you feel better and have more energy.
- Injuries that won’t heal: Collagen is one of the important proteins that is found in our connective tissues and in our skin. Protein is also necessary for blood to clot. A protein deficiency can cause a delay in healing for minor cuts and scrapes as well as sprains and strains.
- Weakened Immune System: Our bloodstreams need the amino acids found in proteins to help our immune systems make the antibodies that enable white blood cells to fight bacteria, toxins and viruses. Protein is also necessary to aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients as we eat.
How much protein should we take in each day? Well, that truly depends on each individual and his or her goals, but we all should be getting a minimum of 25% of our daily calories from protein. Athletes will need a much higher amount of protein, but every single person needs clean quality protein.
Please be very careful about any popular diets you hear or read about. Where nutrition is concerned, trendy is rarely ever the best choice. A successful meal plan should always consist of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and lean proteins. Tracking your meals and maintaining a journal can be exceptionally helpful. Any quality personal trainer or nutritionist can help if you need nutritional guidance. Feel free to contact me; I would love to help you!