Health and wellness experts argue about the effects of fat and carbs. But almost everyone agrees that adequate protein is an important part of a balanced diet. If you’re wondering why protein is important, here are nine ways it benefits the body.
It helps you feel full longer.
The three macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates, and protein — have varied effects on your body. Protein is by far the most filling, so when you increase your protein intake, you’ll feel full longer, and from less food.
How? Protein suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin. It also increases peptide YY levels, a hormone that helps you feel full. These appetite-suppressing effects are powerful. In one study, increasing protein consumption from 15% to 30% of calories helped overweight women reduce their daily caloric intake by 441 calories—without intentionally restricting their diet.
The best part? Making the switch is simple. Next time you’re cooking dinner, make your rice or potato serving slightly smaller and add in a few more bites of meat or fish. Perhaps even easier, swap out an unhealthy snack with a protein shake and see what a difference it can make. Protein shakes can be especially beneficial in helping people who follow vegetarian or vegan diets get ample amounts of protein.
It can reduce late-night snacking and cravings.
Food cravings are not the same as hunger. When you’re experiencing a craving, your body doesn’t necessarily require energy or nutrients. Rather, it’s your brain wanting a reward.
One of the best ways to deal with cravings is to stop them from happening in the first place. Increasing your protein intake is one of the most effective preventative techniques. According to one study, raising protein to 25% of calories in overweight males reduced cravings by 60%, and reduced the desire to snack by 50%.
It boosts your metabolism.
Eating can temporarily increase your metabolism. To understand how, it’s important to first understand the concept of the thermic effect of food (TEF).
TEF is based on the number of calories your body uses to digest and make use of the nutrients found in the food you consume. However, each macronutrient has a different thermic impact. Protein has a strong thermic impact, ranging from 20-35%, as opposed to 5-15% for fats and carbohydrates. By increasing your protein intake, you can significantly boost your metabolism and increase the number of calories you can consume per day.
One study found that people who followed a high-protein diet burned an average of 260 more calories per day than their low-protein counterparts. That’s equal to almost an hour of moderate exercise per day.
It can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Because a high-protein diet stimulates the metabolism and leads to a natural reduction in calorie intake and cravings, many people who increase their protein intake lose weight relatively quickly.
In one study, people who ate 30% of their calories from protein dropped 11 pounds (5 kg) in 12 weeks, even without intentionally restricting their diet.
What’s more, protein can help you lose weight while maintaining muscle while eating in a caloric deficit. In a 12-month trial of 130 people on a calorie-restricted diet, the high-protein group lost 53 percent more body fat than the low-protein group. That’s a pretty staggering statistic.
And protein doesn’t just help people lose weight. It helps them keep it off too. If you want to reach your weight loss goals in a healthy and sustainable way, consider making a permanent increase in the amount of protein you consume.
It improves muscle mass and overall strength.
Protein is the primary component of muscle mass, and as your muscle mass increases, so does your metabolism. Fitness enthusiasts around the world train to promote muscle growth. Whether you’re a weight lifter, runner, biker, or yogi, studies show that consuming a high-protein diet is key to achieving lean muscle.
Even if you aren’t interested in increasing your muscle mass, maintaining a high protein intake during weight loss can also aid to avoid muscle loss.
It repairs muscles after a workout.
As strange as it sounds, lifting weights and working out is all about breaking down your muscle fibers. The amino acids found in protein help your muscles repair themselves and form denser, stronger fibers.
This helps reduce recovery times so you can get back out there sooner.
It can help lower your blood pressure.
Heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease are all linked to high blood pressure. Believe it or not, higher protein intake has been found to lower blood pressure.
In fact, 40 controlled trials found that increased protein reduced both systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading) and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of a reading). Studies have also found that it also reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, which can also reduce the risk for heart attacks and disease.
It can help with recovery from injury.
As much as we may try to avoid injury or illness, both are inevitably a part of life. When an injury does occur, protein can play a huge role in helping your body repair itself, as it’s the primary component of your tissues and organs.
It can help you stay strong as you age.
As you age, your muscles naturally become weaker. Daily tasks can become more difficult and moving around can take more energy. Eventually, weakened muscles can lead to accidental falls, bone fractures, and poor quality of life among older adults.
The good news: Eating more protein is one of the best ways to fight age-related muscle deterioration.
So, why is protein important?
In summary, adequate protein intake is key if you want to lose weight, improve strength, increase or maintain muscle mass, and boost your metabolic rate, protein is important. If you currently struggle to get enough, try adding a clean protein powder to supplement the macronutrient gaps in your diet.
As with any type of food, the fewer ingredients, the better. If you’re interested in trying a clean, plant-based protein powder that’s good for your gut, shop Mikuna Chocho Superfood Protein, made from Chocho, an ancient plant grown in the Andes Mountains. With only 1 to 5 ingredients (depending on the flavor you choose), you can rest easy knowing you’re getting a high-quality source of protein that will help you reach your health and wellness goals.