Protein, protein, protein. Chances are, if you've ever wanted to embark on a fitness journey, you’ve heard a million and one times that you need to eat protein. And yes, protein plays an important role in building muscle, losing weight and staying full.
As a personal trainer, I'm here to remove any confusion you might have. Let's delve deeper into why this macronutrient deserves a front-row seat in your nutrition plan. After you've read this article you'll have a better understanding of how important protein is on a fitness journey, as well as some amazing protein sources to boost your daily protein intake 👇🏼
Let's get into it!
How does protein help me build muscle?
There's no doubt that protein will help you build muscle. Protein is the building blocks of our muscles cells. Without it, our muscles don't have the nutrients they need to grow stronger.
I actually often compare building muscle to building an extension to your house. Stay with me here, haha. If you want to build an extension to your house, you need extra materials and tools. If you don't have these materials, then you can't build the extension. The same thing goes for muscles. If you want to build more toned muscles than you currently have, you need to give your body the "building blocks" to do so.
Remember that a high protein diet alone won't help you build muscle. It goes hand-in-hand with a proper workout plan. If you're not strength training, your body won't see a "reason" to grow muscle. When we strength train, we break down the small fibers in our muscle cells. It's in the 24-72 hours after a workout (when you're feeling sore) that your body is repairing your muscle tissue and building them stronger, so they can handle the heavy load next time. It uses protein as the building blocks for this.
So just like it will be hard to build an extension to your house without extra materials, it will also be hard building more muscle tissue if you don't have a high protein diet.
So how does protein help build muscle?:
Protein is the building blocks for muscle cells
When accompanied with a good training plan, you are giving your muscles the right fuel to grow stronger
How does protein help me lose weight?
Protein is also a perfect companion when your goal is to lose weight. You might already know, that to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit (i.e. eat less food than your body is burning). If you do so, your body will have to take fuel from other places (i.e. fat stores) to provide you with energy.
This is why protein and a high fibre diet is your best friend. Protein and fibre takes longer for your body to digest, meaning you stay full for longer, compared to a carb-rich food that is digested quicker, and leaves you feeling hungry shortly after. Controlling your hunger and keeping stable blood sugar levels is crucial to maintaining a calorie deficit. You will especially experience a stable energy balance if you combine protein, fibre and a healthy fat source
Protein will also help boost your metabolism if it's combined with strength training. As mentioned earlier in the article, protein helps build muscle. And muscle tissue is "active tissue" whereas fat tissue is "still tissue". So if you compare two people, where one has a significantly higher muscle mass, the person with more muscle will burn more energy throughout the day.
So how does protein help lose weight?:
Protein helps keep you full for longer
Protein helps build muscle, which leads to increased metabolism
How much protein should I eat?
On average, active women need 80-120g protein and active men need 100-150g protein (disclaimer: this is very general advice and might not apply to you).
It's recommended to spread your protein intake throughout the day, as our bodies only need a certain amount at a time. Usually, a meal that has 20-35g protein is considered a high protein meal.
The two meals I often see where my clients lack protein is breakfast and lunch. If you aim to boost your protein intake for these two meals, you'll feel more full throughout the day, and also give your body the constant fuel of protein.
So, to conclude:
A high protein meal has 20-35g of protein
It helps spreading your protein out throughout the day
What are the best protein sources?
The list is loooong 😊
For plant based protein sources, my favourite are: beans, lentils, soy mince, tofu, tempeh, protein powder
For non plant based protein sources, some include: lean meats, fish, skyr yoghurt, eggs and protein powder.
You can also easily boost your protein intake by making sure your healthy fats and carbs also have a higher protein content. For example, nut butter and avocado are both considered a fat source, but nut butter has a lot more protein than avocado. Another example is bulgur wheat compared to bread. Both are considered a carb source, but bulgur has more protein. So, by optimising your carbs and healthy fats, you'll also boost your overall protein intake.
Conclusion: how to increase your protein intake to start seeing results
Okay so, let's conclude. If you want to optimise your fitness journey, wether your goal is to build muscle, lose weight or both, here are a few things to remember:
As a personal trainer, I'm ready to help you reach your fitness goals. Hopefully this article helped give you a little push in the right direction, but if you feel like you need more support, accountability and personalised guidance, I highly recommend starting online coaching
You deserve the best for yourself, and I'm here to make sure you achieve this in a healthy and realistic way. Sign up for Online Coaching with me below 👇🏼