10 Reasons to Add Protein to Your MealsMay 26, 2023
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a fundamental role in maintaining your overall health and well-being.
Perhaps you read that first line and are already raising your hands in frustration.
Maybe you're thinking, "Macro-huh? Why is it always like a science project just to eat a sandwich nowadays!"
After 25+ years of coaching I've seen many clients get confused with the concept of macronutrients so, before I dive too deep into protein, let me backup and explain.
You've got three main players: carbs, proteins, and fats.
Carbs are the energy boosters, giving you about 4 calories per gram.
Proteins are like the muscle builders, also 4 calories per gram.
And fats, well, they pack a punch at 9 calories per gram. You must watch out for those sneaky fats, because they can really add up fast.
Protein is composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of life, and is involved in numerous vital processes within your body.
From supporting growth and repair of tissues to regulating enzymes and hormones, protein is a cornerstone nutrient if you want to get leaner, stronger, and slow aging.
In this lesson, you'll learn why protein is so important, plus explore its role in muscle development, immune function, weight management, and overall health.
10 Reasons to Add Protein to Your Meals
Without protein, your muscles simply will not recover and grow. And the harsh reality is that most people aren’t getting enough protein.
This is especially problematic if you're over 40 years and want to slow the natural loss of muscle.
The good news? With a little knowledge, adding more protein to your day is as simple as following my proven formula.
1. Muscle Development and Repair
One of the primary functions of protein is to facilitate the growth, maintenance, and repair of your muscle tissue.
When you engage in physical activity or exercise, your muscles undergo microscopic damage, and protein steps in to aid in the repair process.
The amino acids derived from protein are crucial in synthesizing new muscle fibers and maintaining the integrity of existing ones.
Adequate protein intake, coupled with resistance training, promotes muscle protein synthesis, enabling the development of lean muscle mass.
This is particularly important if you are over the age of 40 and want to enhance your quality of life.
2. Immune System Support
Protein is integral to a robust immune system. Antibodies, which are proteins produced by your immune system, help recognize and neutralize harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, certain proteins, like cytokines, play a vital role in signaling and coordinating immune responses.
Insufficient protein intake can impair immune function, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Consuming adequate amounts of protein supports the production and functioning of immune cells, ultimately bolstering your body's defense mechanisms.
3. Enzymes and Hormone Regulation
Protein serves as a catalyst for biochemical reactions within your body.
Enzymes, specialized proteins, are responsible for facilitating and speeding up these reactions. They are involved in various processes, such as digestion, metabolism, and energy production.
Moreover, protein is essential for the production and regulation of hormones. Hormones act as messengers, orchestrating numerous bodily functions, including growth, reproduction, and metabolism.
Proteins like insulin and growth hormone are crucial in maintaining proper hormonal balance.
Problem is, insufficient protein intake can disrupt these vital regulatory processes, leading to imbalances and various health issues.
4. Fat Loss and Hunger Control
If shedding those extra pounds is your goal, protein is your trusty sidekick. It not only boosts your metabolism but also reduces calorie intake and cravings. It's like having a personal cheerleader in your weight loss journey.
Protein plays a significant role in weight management because it helps you feel full. When compared to carbohydrates and fats, protein takes longer to digest, keeping you feeling fuller for an extended period.
Including protein-rich foods in your meals can help curb hunger, reduce cravings, and prevent overeating.
Additionally, protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) compared to other macronutrients.
This means that your body expends more energy to digest and metabolize protein, resulting in a slight increase in calorie expenditure.
As a result, a high-protein diet can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance.
5. Nutrient Absorption and Transport
Protein plays a vital role in the absorption and transport of essential nutrients throughout the body.
Certain proteins, such as transporters and carrier proteins, facilitate the movement of nutrients across cell membranes and into cells.
For instance, proteins aid in the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and iron from the gastrointestinal tract.
They also assist in the transport of oxygen through your bloodstream via proteins like hemoglobin.
Without adequate protein intake, you may have trouble absorbing and transporting vital nutrients.
6. Tissue and Organ Function
Protein is a fundamental component of tissues and organs, providing structure, support, and functionality.
It contributes to the formation of collagen, a protein that helps maintain the integrity and elasticity of connective tissues, such as skin, tendons, and ligaments.
Moreover, protein is present in organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys, where it aids in their proper functioning.
Insufficient protein intake can lead to muscle wasting, impaired tissue repair, and compromised organ function.
How to Make Easy Protein-Packed Meals
Protein is what builds your muscles, bones, and tissues. It keeps you satisfied, balances blood sugar levels, and even helps you shed that extra insulation.
By the way, steak isn't your only protein choice. There are many vegetarian options.
Here are some of my go-to recipes to eat a serving of protein at every meal.
🥗🍗 Grilled Chicken Salad
Grill or bake some chicken breast and slice it into strips. Toss it with a variety of fresh vegetables like lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and bell peppers. Drizzle with your favorite dressing or vinaigrette. You can also add some crumbled feta cheese or avocado for extra flavor and healthy fats.
You may also enjoy the avocado version of this chicken salad recipe.
Quinoa and Black Bean Bowl
Cook quinoa according to package instructions. In a separate pan, sauté black beans with garlic, onion, and your choice of spices. Mix the cooked quinoa and black beans together. Add diced tomatoes, corn, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Top it off with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
🌯 Tuna Wrap
In a bowl, mix canned tuna with Greek yogurt, diced celery, chopped red onion, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of dill. Spread the tuna mixture onto a whole wheat tortilla or wrap. Add lettuce, sliced cucumbers, and shredded carrots. Roll it up and give it to your cat... I mean, enjoy!
🐟 Baked Salmon with Roasted Vegetables
Place a salmon fillet on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Season with salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs or spices. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F (200°C) for about 12-15 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through. Serve it alongside a medley of roasted vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
🍲 Lentil Soup
In a large pot, sauté chopped onions, carrots, and celery until softened. Add dried lentils, vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and your choice of herbs and spices. Simmer until the lentils are cooked and the flavors have melded together. You can also add chopped spinach or kale for extra nutrition. Serve the hearty lentil soup with a side of whole grain bread.
Fun fact: Lentils and beans are both types of legumes. So while a lentil isn't a bean, they both belong to the same family.
These meal options provide a good balance of protein along with other essential nutrients. They are simple to prepare and can be customized to suit your taste preferences.
Protein is a must-have in your nutrition plan. It keeps you full, supports muscle growth, promotes bone health, crushes cravings, revs up your metabolism, lowers blood pressure, aids in weight loss, supports healthy kidneys, aids in recovery, and keeps you fit as you age.
To your success,
Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women get leaner, stronger, and happier. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to lose weight from home, with the best online personal trainer, or you want to visit the best personal trainer in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.