The Benefits of Protein
Protein is essential at all stages of life – it aids in development, growth, and maintains function through age. Interestingly enough, the word protein is derived from the Greek word Proteos, which means “primary” or “first”. Yet, many people are not getting enough of this essential nutrient. What is important to keep in mind are the benefits of protein, and of course, are you getting enough?
Protein is vital – but there are three main benefits to highlight:
Protein supplies the building blocks – This probably comes as no surprise, but what does “build muscle” really mean? Our bodies are in a constant state of “turnover” – building up and breaking down structures and processes. To build new muscle, the process of building up must be greater than breaking down, creating a net gain of protein. This net gain happens when you ingest more protein than you need. Additionally, we use protein for more than just building muscle – energy production, creation of hormones and neurotransmitters, among other things. If you don’t eat enough protein, your body will look elsewhere for what’s required. Eating enough helps you build muscle, but also retain what you already have as well.
Aids in weight loss – Even though we associate protein with “building”, it’s just as important in “losing”. During weight loss, protein is helpful due to its thermic effect, satiety, and muscle-sparing nature. First, protein has a high thermic effect on food. Meaning, the amount of energy you burn from eating and the more protein in a diet, the more energy expended. Not only that, but it also helps in making you satiated, keeping hunger in check. Last, even though protein may assist in weight loss, it also spares the muscle you already do have as you lose weight.
Helps with aging – Consuming protein keeps you fit as you age. With age, it’s natural to lose muscle mass in a process called sarcopenia. This process can be decreased by staying physically active, especially with weight-bearing activity or resistance training, and consuming enough dietary protein.
So, protein is vital at each life stage – but how much should you consume? Protein intake is dependent on body size and personal goals. For most active people, consuming between 1.2 – 1.8 grams per kilogram (g/kg) of body weight is enough, but intense activity, like resistance training, may warrant up to 2.0 g/kg. Generally, how much protein is consumed over the course of the day is more important than when or what.
Protein – the “primary” nutrient – is vital to our health. It helps build muscle and other important compounds that may aid in weight loss and helps in the aging process. Benefit from this important molecule by consuming enough day after day.
Dr. Marc Morris, PhD (Human Nutrition), CSCS is a Strength and Health coach living in Saskatoon, SK. Marc’s experience in fitness is varied: he is a competitive strength athlete and international coach but takes pride in helping anyone remove the barriers to live their healthiest lives. Marc can be found on Instagram @marcwmorris, Facebook at Marc W. Morris, or reached by email at [email protected].