Sujata is fairly new in the fitness world but has become passionate about it now. She now promotes health and fitness in her circle actively
We are all aware about nutrition and its necessity for our body to function well. But what we also need to understand is the role each nutrient plays in the proper functioning of the body.
There are primarily two types of nutrient categories in nutrition science – the macronutrients and the micronutrients. Macronutrients has three categories of nutrients which we primarily consume that provide us with the necessary energy – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The micronutrients include the vitamins and minerals which are needed by the body in smaller amounts.
This article in particular concentrates on the beneficial properties of protein in the fitness journey of weight loss and muscle building.
Protein, which is a macronutrient, plays a significant role in the structure, function and regulation of body’s tissues and organs. It is the primary building element for growth and development of children, teens, and pregnant women. Every cell in the human body and every organism contains protein, assisting in its development.
Scientifically speaking, protein is a complex substance that consists of the amino acid residues joined by peptide bonds. Many amino acids join together to form long chains, which are arranged like beads arranged on a string.
Proteins have great nutritional value and is directly involved in several chemical processes in the body. When our body consumes the food source, the protein in it is broken down into separate amino acids, which are absorbed by the blood stream and eventually taken to the liver. These amino acids assist in growing and repairing of the body cells and maintaining a healthy body.
When it comes to fitness, protein plays a crucial role in building muscle mass as well as in the weight loss journey. It is involved in the mechanisms in the body that includes boosting metabolism, reducing appetite, and regulating the weight-regulating hormones. It is involved in the muscle synthesis which helps in building a lean body mass and loosing weight.
Protein is available abundantly in both animal and plant-based products and hence, including them in our dietary requirement is feasible. Obtaining the adequate amount of protein in our everyday diet is essential for maintaining our overall health.
PROTEIN AND FITNESS
Protein plays a crucial role in our fitness journey – whether we aim at building muscles or want to lose weight or both. Following are some of the top reasons on why including adequate amount of protein into our diet is essential in our fitness journey –
1. Reduces hunger and keeps us satiated for a longer period of time
Among all the 3 macro-nutrients, protein has proven to be the most filling. It provides greater satiety and makes us feel full with lesser consumption of food and in turn consuming lesser number of calories. This is caused due to the reduction of hunger hormone level called ghrelin and boosting of the levels of the satiety hormones peptide YY, GLP-1 and cholecystokinin, that makes us feel full for a longer period of time. This automatically leads to reduction in the calorie intake throughout the day.
2. Stimulates muscle growth and increases strength
Proteins are the building blocks of the muscles. It plays an active role in the growth, repair and building of the muscles. It increases the muscle mass and strength, when consumed in conjunction with strength training, lifting weights and being physically active. Replacement of fats and increase in muscle mass also increase the metabolism rate and therefore, caters to calorie burning while at rest, accelerating the process of weight loss.
However, it is to be kept in mind that high protein intake without strength and weight training will lead to weight gain due to the increase in the fat mass.
3. Reduces cravings and the desire to snack
Cravings is not merely feeling hungry. It is the desire of the brain to snack for the taste of it or just as a reward that the brain demands. Controlling the desire to snack is an essential act in the weight loss journey.
Pairing of protein with other macronutrients plays a significant role in reducing the cravings. The proteins when consumed in combination with carb slows the process of absorption of sugar into our blood stream. This helps in controlling our cravings throughout the day. A high-protein breakfast can play a key role in controlling cravings throughout the day.
4. Improves metabolism and enhances fat loss
Body uses the calories to digest and make use of the food (nutrients) that we consume which aids in improving our metabolism. This process is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) and functioning of this process is essential for building muscle mass and losing fat.
Evidence shows that protein has much higher thermic effect than fats or carbs – which is 20-35% as compared to 5-15%. Evidence also supports the fact that protein significantly boosts metabolism and burns a greater number of calories even while at rest.
Lack of protein can still help with burning calories and fat, but it will lead to loss in muscle mass as well. Maintaining of the lean muscle is immensely valuable in the weight-loss process. Therefore, intake of adequate amount of protein is crucial in boosting metabolism and burning calories throughout the day without compromising on the lean muscle mass.
5. Maintains weight loss
As mentioned, high-protein intake boosts metabolism and reduces calorie intake and cravings. When one is on a calorie deficit, higher intake of proteins reduces the urge to snack, thus helping in limiting the calorie intake. This helps significantly in weight reduction.
However, maintaining the weight lost is a tougher challenge. A modest increase in the protein intake helps significantly in maintaining the lost weight. Protein helps in reducing the calorie intake and boosts calorie out, i.e., calorie burning process, even while sleeping. It is important to permanently increase the protein intake when the aim is to keep the excess weight away.
A higher protein diet also helps in loosing the stubborn belly fat, that builds up around the organs and cause diseases. And it can also help keep the weight regain at check in the long run.
6. Prevents muscle loss and metabolic slowdown
Weight loss can mean fat loss. But it is not only associated with fat loss, but also includes muscle loss. Adequate amount of protein helps in loosing the weight without the lose of muscle mass.
Also, with weight loss, our metabolic rate decreases. Less consumption means the body goes into “starvation mode”, prompting the body to store more, which leads to lower number of calories burned. With adequate amount of protein consumption, the muscle loss decreases keeping our metabolic rate high while losing fats when burning the calories.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN TO BE CONSUMED?
The dietary recommendations for protein consumption depends on each individual based on their age, weight, gender, height, daily physical activity, and their health conditions. Officially, for women 0.75 gram of protein per kilogram of the bodyweight and for men 0.84 gram of protein per kilogram of the bodyweight is recommended every day.
However as per the 2018 CSIRO report, for the purpose of weight loss, 1.2 gram for women and 1.6 gram for men per kilogram of bodyweight is recommended. It is also suggested to include at least 25 gram of protein in each meal which will escalate the weight loss process while preserving the muscle mass.
Evidence also suggests that a high-protein diet aids more in weight loss than a low carb diet because of better improvement in the metabolic parameters.
Protein is a macronutrient and is an essential part of the diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle. On an average, people already consume 15% of their calorie intake from proteins on a daily basis.
However, if the aim of the person is to lose weight, gain lean muscle mass or improve the metabolic health, it is essential to count the protein intake. Protein plays a key role in weight loss due to its thermic and metabolic impacts on the process of digestion, fast tracking the process. This enables quicker and improved results over a period of time. But this has to go in conjunction with strength training. Without strength and weight training, consuming excess protein can lead to weight gain instead of weight loss.
Therefore, we can conclude that protein is one of the most important macronutrients in an individual’s fitness journey of weight loss and lean muscle gain, and its adequate consumption needs to be an essential part of the individual’s diet.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Sujata Hazarika