Protein plays an important role in your health and weight loss plans. However, can you get too much of a good thing? Find out how much protein you really need and the best ways to meet your nutritional needs.
Facts About Protein
- Follow the recommended guidelines. Along with carbohydrates and fats, proteins are an essential macronutrient. Federal guidelines suggest about 56 grams a day for men and 46 grams for women.
- Avoid excess consumption. Most Americans eat twice as much protein as they need, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Overdoing it can increase the risk of kidney disease, osteoporosis, and some cancers.
- Understand the thermic advantage. One reason protein makes dieting easier is because its digestion burns the most calories. You use up about 30 calories for every 100 calories you eat, compared to 12 calories for fats or 7 for carbohydrates.
Eating to Meet General Protein Needs
- Drink plenty of water. Protein digestion creates uric acid and other waste products. Extra water helps protect your kidneys by making them filter better.
- Space out your intake. Your body can only process so much protein at a time. Trade in your big dinner steak for small servings all day long.
- Have protein for breakfast. Early morning is the ideal time to start. You’ll rev up your metabolism and feel less hungry later.
- Eat more fish. Fish is one of the best sources of lean protein. It also has important antioxidants.
- Enjoy eggs. Most healthy adults can safely eat up to one egg a day. They’re nutritious and cheap.
- Choose the right dairy products. Low fat and no fat dairy products deliver protein with less saturated fat. Have yogurt for lunch.
- Limit high fat meat. Many experts recommend eating red meat twice a week or less. Shop for lean cuts or toss chunks of white chicken into a salad.
- Switch to beans and lentils. Beans and lentils are good for you and your wallet. They’re cheap as well as packed with protein and fiber. Whip up a bowl of chili or a delicious homemade soup.
- Read the labels. Marketers know that “protein” is a popular buzzword that sells. Check the labels on protein bars and other products for added sugars and chemicals you may want to avoid. Fill your plate with natural, whole foods as much as possible.
Eating to Meet Special Protein Needs
- Jumpstart your weight loss diet. In addition to the thermic effects of protein, it’s very effective at promoting satiety. That means you can manage your appetite better and feel comfortable while eating less. Aim to get about 30% of your total calories from protein, 30% from fat, and 60% from carbohydrates.
- Build muscles. Moderate exercise has little effect on your dietary requirements. If you want to use protein supplements, consider fast-absorbing products such as whey powder.
- Go vegetarian. It’s easy to get all the protein you need without animal products. Good protein sources include beans, lentils, and soy products. Recent research shows your body will combine nutrients you eat throughout the day.
- Have a healthy baby. One life event does dramatically increase your protein needs. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need 70 grams of protein a day or more. Talk with your doctor about your individual concerns.
It’s smart to eat protein frequently, as long as you’re not consuming too much. Getting your protein from good quality sources will give you the energy you need and make losing weight easier.