There are three basic components in the food that we consume: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. We need all three in our diet.
Here are 8 reasons to make sure you’re eating enough protein to stay lean:
1. Our body is made of cells, and a good portion of the material required to build our cells is protein. Think about it, when we eat meat, we eat it for the protein. Animals are sources of protein. Humans are animals, we are mostly protein. [Our bones are made of minerals, and we have a good deal of fluids in our body. Our brain is mostly made of fat. And our fat is well, fat.] But, the bulk of the rest of us is protein. Our enzymes are protein, our muscles are protein, our internal organs are mostly made of protein, our hair and nails are protein, our DNA is …. you guessed it: protein.
2. We build the proteins in our body from scratch using amino acids as building blocks. In order to build our proteins effectively it’s important that we have supplies of all 9 essential amino acids. (There are 22 standard amino acids but 9 of them cannot be created by the human body.) Most meats contain all 9 essential amino acids in good proportion and as such are considered “complete proteins.” Vegetables can be missing or low in some amino acids. Grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, and hempseed are “complete proteins”
3. Calories from protein are not easily converted into energy or fat. Because of this, protein boosts your metabolism. It requires nearly 3 times as much energy input (than fat or carbohydrates) in order to be broken down and used as energy.
4. Increasing the protein in your diet (and proporionally decreasing the fat and carbohydrates) can cause you to lose body fat without being hungry, and without exercising! Here’s a scientific article by Donald Layman if you’d like more information about this.
5. Low calorie diets cause the body to slow down weight loss, since the body perceives a starvation and as a result reduces metabolic function in order to preserve itself. With a higher protein diet, the body does not receive a caloric deficit and does not slow down the metabolism, in fact with more protein to work with, it actually increases it’s metabolism (see point 3.)
6. Foods rich in protein fill you up more quickly. Protein is known to satisfy your appetite. Two meals with equal numbers of calories, one rich in protein, the other rich in carbohydrates. The meal rich in protein will keep you feeling satiated longer, and if they are large meals, will fill you up faster. More science proof if you’re interested.
7. Higher protein levels are known to moderate insulin response. And if you didn’t know it already, insulin is responsible for storing fat. If we can moderate our insulin response we will store less fat! There’s another chemical at work here called glucagon, and of course another article for those who wish to learn more.
8. Protein tastes great! Eggs, poultry, fish, quinoa…these are all great sources of lean protein.
To summarize: Lean protein is not easily converted to fat, it speeds up our metabolism, it slows down fat storage, it fill us up and keeps us sated longer, and it tastes great.