Research has proven time and time again that a high-protein diet is extremely helpful for weight-loss, satiation levels, and maintaining muscle mass to improve body-composition.
Yet, most people struggle to eat enough protein. It is the most commonly under-eaten macronutrient, especially when following a vegan or vegetarian diet. So, we want to help you understand the importance of eating adequate protein and how it impacts your health.
Some people have been led to believe that an abundance of protein can be harmful to our kidneys or may contribute to osteoporosis. However, a review published in 2017 concluded that increased protein intake doesnot harm the bones. In fact, the evidence pointed to a higher protein intake improving bone health, which is supported by multiple other studies (source).
Additionally, many studies show that unless an individual has been diagnosed with kidney disease, eating a high-protein intake isnot harmful. Research has been done to identify how much protein would be harmful and it is still unclear and many showed no negative effects when eating more than the recommended amount. Some research studies have monitored healthy individuals, that also strength-train, eating around 1.4-2g per pound of body weight without any adverse health effects (source).
So, today we are going to break this down to help you understand why protein is important, the benefits of eating adequate amounts of protein and help you determine how much you should consume based upon your lifestyle.
First, protein is the building block of our body and essential for life! Every living cell uses it for both structural and functional purposes. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body also uses protein to build and repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.
As mentioned before, protein is the most commonly under-eaten macronutrient as many people gravitate towards carbs or fats. One analysis found that up to 46% of the oldest participants did not consume enough protein on a regular basis. This deficiency is based on the minimal recommended intake, not the ideal recommended intake (source).
Understanding that protein is vital to many functions of the body, we want to share our top 3 key benefits as well as other key benefits of eating an adequate amount of protein each day.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and can reduce hunger and cravings. If you find yourself constantly craving junk food or over consuming chips and candy, you may want to consider replacing your snacks with protein.
The satiation appetite effects can be powerful to help you eat less calories while still feeling satisfied, which is especially important if your goal is fat loss. In one study, increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories made overweight women eat 441 fewer calories each day without intentionally restricting anything (source). An easy way to do this is to simply replace some of your carbs and fat calories with a few extra bites of protein each meal.
Eating adequate protein improves muscle mass, can help increase strength and maintain a leaner physique. As mentioned before, protein is the building block of every cell in our body. The preservation of muscle mass is especially important in two scenarios: fat loss and aging.
Fat loss: Muscle is the most metabolic tissue in the body and is catabolized when we don’t have enough fuel in the tank to meet our energy demands. In order to combat this, we want to ensure we stay in an anabolic state by eating protein throughout the day to supply our body with the proper amino acids to preserve our muscle tissue. As long as we are in an anabolic state, our body will utilize our carb and fat stores for energy rather than break down muscle to find the amino acids necessary for normal functions.
To stay in an anabolic state, we recommend eating protein evenly throughout the day and consume anywhere between 20-40g per meal depending on your individual needs.
Aging: As we age, our muscles begin to weaken naturally, this is known as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is one of the main causes of falls, frailty, bone fractures, and reduced quality of life among older adults. This is partially due to the natural decline of testosterone, the hormone that stimulates protein synthesis and muscle growth (source). However, the best way to combat this is by eating adequate amounts of protein to help you maintain your muscle mass and promote muscle growth alongside strength training.
Helps boost metabolism and can help you burn more fat. Some of the calories we consume from food are utilized to digest, absorb, and metabolize the food. The energy required, meaning the calories burned, to breakdown and digest food is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Protein has the highest TEF compared to other foods and helps you burn more calories for about 2-2.5 hours after eating a high-protein meal! Depending on how much protein you intake now, this can amount to 80–100 more calories burned each day (source).
The TEF is different for each macronutrient as some require more energy than others. Here is a breakdown:
- Fat: roughly 0-3%
- Carbs: roughly 5-10%
- Protein: roughly 20-30%
- Cruciferous veggies: 15-20%
Protein also helps to:
Lower blood pressure (source)
Improve blood glucose response (source)
Reduce cravings and late night eating
Recover from injury
Maintain fat loss
Support your bones
Provide you with important micronutrients. Including key vitamins and minerals such as zinc, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin C, andvitamin D.
How much protein do you need?
The FDA’s recommended daily allowance is a minimum of 0.8g per kg (or 0.4g per pound of body-weight), but that is basically to avoid malnourishment.
For our goals, and for our health, we need a bit more and we’ve found by working with thousands of clients that these ranges work well.
Here are some basic guidelines when determining intake and accomplishing that intake goal:
- Multiply your current body-weight by the multiplier that best fits your situation.
- Sedentary most of the day/desk job = .7g per lb. of body weight
- Light activity (1-3 workouts/week) = .8g per lb. of body weight
- Moderate-High Activity (4-5 workouts/wk) = 1g per lb. of body weight
- Make sure that this level of protein is not beyond 35-40% of your total daily caloric intake. If it is, bring the protein intake down to 40% of calories maximum.
- For the remainder of your calories, other than protein, try to keep fats and carbohydrates balanced (about 30-35% of total calorie intake each).
- If your protein goal is very far from where you are currently at, try to incrementally get there. Increase by 20g each day for 3-4 days, then try to bump another 10-20g and hold there for a few days, etc. until you reach the recommended level.
As you can see, protein is extremely important for a number of reasons and helpful for us to get to our goals. Try using a few different types of protein throughout the week to see which you like best and get a wide array of vitamins/nutrients!
Here is one of our favorite recipes to start your day with a good amount of protein and enjoy a stack of pancakes!
Lemon Blueberry Protein Pancakes
- 2 servings Birch Benders pancake mix
- 1 scoop CLEAN Vanilla Protein
- Juice of 1 lemon OR 2-3 drops high quality lemon essential oil (I use DoTerra)
- Water to consistency
- ½ cup Blueberries
Toppings of choice: I use syrup and/or Truwhip :)
- Measure out pancake mix and protein. Add lemon juice or oil, and then add water until a good consistency.
- Heat skillet over medium heat with coconut oil spray or grass fed butter.
- Fold in blueberries to batter.
- Pour into the skillet in small circles and cook 2-3 minutes or until the edges start to look done, flip and cook 1-2 min more.
- Top with anything you like - more blueberries, mini chocolate chips, a drizzle of nut butter, coconut flakes, Truwhip and of course.. Syrup!