In our world of fast foods and convenience foods, eating high-quality protein can be difficult. Yet without protein, your hair could fall out, your fingernails could crumble, and your muscles could deteriorate into mush. You are unlikely to reach your ideal size and stay energetic without a steady diet of high-quality protein.
Think about it. In the right quantities, steak is really good for you! So are almost all lean meats, eggs, and cheeses.
How the Body Uses Protein
Proteins give you energy, and your body needs them to manufacture hormones, antibodies, enzymes, and tissues.
Your body cannot be healthy without the essential amino acids found in protein. They’re called “essential” because your body can’t manufacture them on its own. You need a regular dose of essential amino acids in your diet. Yes, your body needs “nonessential” amino acids, but it can synthesize them itself.
After water, protein makes up the largest portion of your body weight. This includes muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, and hair. Protein is needed in your diet so that your body is healthy and functions properly.
Sources of Protein
Protein-containing foods come in two versions:
- Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids. These proteins are found in meats, fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
- Incomplete proteins contain only some of the essential amino acids. Foods with incomplete protein include grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and some leafy vegetables. Soy-bean products, such as tofu, tempeh, and soy protein isolate are not complete proteins.
Proteins Support Weight Loss
By eating complete protein at every meal, you give yourself nutritional support to keep your energy high until your next meal. Proteins provide critical components your body needs for fat burning.
The most common tendency of people who don’t eat enough protein for breakfast is to crash during mid- to late afternoon. They then overeat the quick, pick-me-up high-glycemic starches and sugars. This is a sure way to gain rather than lose weight.
Your Basic Protein Requirements
An average-sized woman needs about 15 to 21 grams of complete protein at each meal. An average-sized man needs about 20 to 28 grams, based on eating three meals a day. That’s about 3 ounces of meat or fish for a woman and 4 ounces for a man.
Three ounces of meat is about the size of a small can of tuna or the size of a deck of cards. If you eat a protein snack, lower the grams of protein you eat at regular meals.