The Importance of Protein
Protein can be something often overlooked when maintaining a healthy diet. It’s something I see quite often with my health coaching clients, especially in women. And the common misconception is that if you aren’t trying to gain muscle, you don’t need a lot of protein. Well that’s just not true. Protein is a very important part of a healthy life no matter what.
So why is protein essential?
First of all, it assists with digestion because we all know the many uncomfortable things that can happen from bad digestion. Protein also helps energy production and muscle contraction. I think we can agree everyone needs those. Adequate amount of protein also helps maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails. What woman doesn’t want all of those things?
Another function of protein is that it balances fluids in your body and keeps you from retaining water. In other words, it helps with bloating! It forms antibodies that balance your immune system to help fight off sickness. And it controls your hormones. Yes, you read that right. Protein is responsible for growth hormones, sex hormones, sleep hormones, and more.
Now that I’ve discussed why your body needs the right amount of protein, let’s go over what kind of symptoms you can have if you aren’t getting enough in your diet.
- Mood Changes – If you have a lack of protein then your body is going to have low levels of dopamine and serotonin which will cause you to feel depressed and overly aggressive.
- Swelling – As we discussed above, protein helps fluid function in the body. If you don’t have enough protein, you may suffer from swelling in your hands, legs, feet, and stomach.
- Hair, Skin, and Nail Issues – If you don’t have the right amount of protein, your collagen production will be off-balance. This will cause thin and brittle hair, dry and flaky skin, and weak nails.
- Low Energy – You will experience extreme fatigue and feel like you need to sleep more than the average amount.
- Hunger – Protein keeps you fuller for longer so if you aren’t eating enough you will feel hungry more often.
- Slow Healing Injuries – Because your collagen production is lower, it will take longer for cuts and scrapes to heal. You can also suffer from more injuries when exercising.
- Hormones – Since protein helps hormone function, you may suffer from menstrual problems and lower sex drive. Irregular hormones (especially in women) can cause all kinds of problems pre and post menopausal. It can also affect you if you are trying to conceive.
- Low Immune System – You will experience sickness more often and your gut bacteria will be off balance.
How Much Protein?
Okay, now you know why you need enough protein in your diet but how much do you need? And that depends on your weight. You need .36 grams per pound. So if you weigh 150 pound you will need no less than 54 grams of protein a day. If you exercise on a regular basis, and are trying to maintain muscle, you will need way more than the average amount. There are ways to calculate how much protein you need based on weight, height, gender, etc. Here is the protein calculator I use that is helpful.
What Forms of Protein?
Now if you are like me and you can’t get all your protein from meat, or you are vegan or vegetarian, here is a list of other foods that contain high amounts of protein:
- Greek Yogurt
- Protein Powders
- Ezekiel Bread
- Collagen Peptides
- Tempeh or Tofu
While some vegetables contain protein, they do not contain enough in order to get your entire protein intake. If you are unsure of how much protein is in a food you want to eat, google it. A good tip I try to stick by is to have at least 25 grams or more of protein for breakfast. I find it’s easier to hit the desired amount I need throughout the day, if I start with a high amount in the morning.