There is a lot of information out there about nutrition and diet. It can be tough to filter through it all, but when you do, one message comes through: protein benefits are incredible for your body, especially when trying to lose weight.
Protein is an important part of any diet. It is builds and repairs cells, and is part of making sure your muscles, organs, glands, and skin are all healthy.
Beyond these basic health benefits, high protein diets can give you more energy, help you keep your appetite in check, stop your sugar cravings, and even help you lose weight. Whatever your health and fitness goals, protein can help you meet them.
It’s easy to make small changes to your diet to get more protein, and it doesn’t mean eating only red meat. A tremendous variety of grains, vegetables and dairy products are also rich in protein.
From lentils to peanut butter to quinoa to peas, on a high protein diet you can eat a wide variety of types of food while getting all of the below protein benefits. Here is a great list with protein rich foods you might want to add to your diet:
Here are some of the most significant protein benefits – as well as tips for finding ways to add more protein to your diet.
1. Have More Energy
Protein is probably the best energy source out there. Fat needs to be converted into another form before the body can use it as energy, and carbs give you a temporary energy burst that ends in a drop in energy.
Protein, however, gives an immediate energy boost that lasts for hours. It gives your body the kind of sustained energy that will keep you going for much longer than the quick sugar rush of a cookie or the caffeine fix of a cup of coffee.
This is the kind of energy you need to stay alert and focused throughout the day, and it will make you less prone to the mid-afternoon slump.
2. Stop Your Sugar Cravings
Speaking of sugar, eating protein can actually keep your sugar cravings in check. When your body is low in protein, it will cry out for energy. This often becomes a sugar craving, which will give you quick (though temporary) energy.
By getting enough protein, you will avoid this situation altogether, and you may notice you are not as tempted to reach for that piece of cake or chocolate bar. No longer will you need the quick fix, because your protein and energy needs will be satisfied.
3. Maintain (or Even Lose) Weight
High protein diets can help you maintain your weight – or even lose weight, as studies in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior show.
Eating protein makes you feel fuller, which means you will be less inclined to reach for a second serving. High protein diets have been shown to reduce obsessive thoughts about food and reduce late-night snacking, which helps keep your eating in check.
Protein puts the brakes on your appetite and leaves you feeling satisfied and full in a way other foods don’t.
Of course, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and eating other healthy foods are also important to maintaining a healthy weight but don’t underestimate the value of protein.
A good habit is to eat protein like eggs or Greek yogurt at breakfast, as research shows it will keep you full longer and eat less during the day.
4. Build and Repair Muscle
If you want to build muscle, eating more protein is a must. When you work out, small tears form in your muscles. Protein repairs these tears and makes your muscles stronger in the process.
This is why athletes have protein-rich diets. Without enough protein, muscle breaks down and isn’t replaced.
Again, if you are trying to maintain or lose weight, it is important to build muscle because muscle burns more energy than fat. This means that heavily muscular people burn more calories even when they are resting.
5. Snack on Protein-Rich Foods
When you’re feeling hungry, it can be easy to neglect protein for a quick hit of sugar or fat. It’s very easy to grab a cookie or a handful of chips.
But protein-rich foods can be delicious and quick to prepare, too. Greek yogurt with honey and almonds will satisfy your need for something sweet while giving you a delicious and protein-rich snack.
Chocolate milk is the tried and true post-workout beverage because it contains both slow- and fast-release proteins.
When it comes to food protein, there’s nothing better than the simple egg. One egg contains six grams of protein and all 20 amino acids. Hard-boil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week and snack on them throughout the week by adding them to salads or eating them plain with a bit of salt.
There are many, many high-protein types of meat, dairy, and products out there. Check out this list of 40 high-protein foods for inspiration in adding more protein to your diet.
Remember, when choosing foods rich in protein, choose whole foods instead of processed foods, as foods that are closest to their natural state will better improve your health and prevent disease.
So How Much Protein Do I Need?
The short answer: it depends. Men generally require more protein than women, and more active people require more than those who are not active.
Recommendations vary, with some advising the average man who spends most of his day at a desk needs only 0.36 grams of protein per pound of his body weight, per day. An athlete needs much more, perhaps as much as 0.7 grams per pound of body weight.
Talk to your doctor or a dietician about how much protein, specifically, you require. Then see this helpful list of 12 dishes with 20 grams of protein.
The good news is that it’s unlikely that you will eat enough protein to have any negative impact on your health. So don’t be shy about finding ways to add more protein to your diet. You’ll have more energy, keep your appetite in check, stop your sugar cravings, and more.
So go ahead: embrace a high-protein diet. You will be healthier and happier because of it.
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