Maybe you've heard about a new food trend: protein-heavy diets. More and more people are chowing down on steaks and soy in the hopes of building muscle and leading a healthy lifestyle. But what's this new fad all about? Why is protein so important to your body?
The Basics of Eating Protein on a Diet
First, it's important to understand exactly what protein is. Proteins are a key group of macromolecules and are made up of subunits called amino acids. They do a ton for our body! When you eat protein-rich foods your digestive system breaks down the proteins into these amino acids, which are then used in metabolic reactions, DNA replication and molecule transportation. These are a bunch of fancy terms, but to translate: proteins and amino acids power our body, make new cells, and move nutrients around inside of us (just to name a few tasks). They do a lot of heavy lifting!
Protein & Muscle Development
One of the most famous roles protein plays is in muscle mass building. Protein powders are becoming a standard when working out, but there are a bunch of natural sources of protein as well (beef, dairy, nuts, beans, and fish, just to name a few). When you exercise you purposefully stretch and tear at your muscles to make them stronger. But how can you build a stronger body without the right materials? You can't! That's why you need protein in your diet. By taking in different proteins and amino acids, your body is able to repair your muscles and make them bigger and tougher than before. Help yourself out and eat some protein before or after a workout to boost your muscles.
Weight Management & The Role of Protein
If you're having trouble with weight loss, a protein diet might be the solution. Proteins make you feel fuller than carbohydrates or fats, which means that you won't feel hungry for a longer time. This will give you another line of defense against that delicious-looking ice cream sundae! Also, eating proteins enacts thermogenesis within our bodies. This is a process by which more carbs are used to break down protein-heavy foods than carb or fat-heavy ones. This means that there is a smaller net gain in carbs and likely a smaller gain in weight.
Mental Benefits of Protein
Proteins strongly affect our mental state along with our physical one. This is done largely through their blood sugar stabilization and hormone production. Insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose (or sugar) concentration, is required to process carbs, fats, and proteins. But proteins require a lot less of it than the other two molecules. What this means is that insulin levels (and therefore sugar levels) are not as strongly affected by protein consumption, and in fact, proteins stabilize glucose content in your blood. This means you're less likely to get mood swings and become cranky when eating lots of protein. Without enough of these types of molecules, your body enters a state of amino acid deprivation. In this state, your learning skills, coordination, basic motor functions, energy, and strength all suffer.
So, protein is important! Not only does it make up your muscles, it also does a lot behind the scenes to keep our bodies running smoothly. Check out our recipes. Hormones produced with the help of proteins have a massive effect on both how we think and how we act. So, even if you're not going all-in on a protein diet, don't forget how essential amino acids are for your body.