It’s natural to experience highs and lows on any diet or exercise program, but reaching a plateau in your weight loss can be frustrating, especially if you’ve been on a roll.
Sometimes, it’s even frustrating enough to make you want to try a radical change.
Like, say, drastically switching up your protein or carb intake to see if that can make a difference.
There are many “food myths” which get recycled every few years, and protein or carbohydrate intake tend to be the target of some of these falsehoods.
So, let’s clear this up right now: the number one rule for successful dieting is to eat the recommended amount of protein.
That’s it! To figure out how much you need, simply multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.8.
So, if you are 150 lbs, you need a daily protein intake of 120g.
Now that you figured out how much you need, let’s talk a little about why it’s so important.
Protein Helps You Retain Muscle Mass
When you exercise, your body breaks down muscle fiber and then rebuilds it better and stronger than before.
This is how your muscles become physically larger, more flexible, and more capable of performing certain exercises.
In order to complete this process the right way, your body uses protein that you take in from the foods you eat.
When you are too low on protein, your body will have trouble repairing damaged muscle fiber.
You may notice that it takes you longer than usual to recover from a workout (i.e. you’re still sore three days later), or that you’re simply not performing as well in the gym.
This is because your muscles cannot rebuild themselves to keep up with your activity. However, eating a healthy amount of protein helps sidestep this problem altogether.
High-protein foods can sometimes seem intimidating to those who are trying to watch their calorie intake. Good sources of protein include foods like high-quality animal protein, eggs, nuts -- all foods which are often cited as being ”fattening.”
Eating an appropriate amount of protein will actually help you maintain the muscle mass required to burn excess body fat.
Protein and healthy fats are very important parts of your nutrition puzzle, and they shouldn’t be cut out in an effort to crash diet.
Protein Helps Keep You Satiated
Feelings of hunger are annoying and difficult to ignore, but there’s a reason for that. When your brain senses that you need food, it sends urgent signals which can make it hard to concentrate on anything else.
To be clear, it’s best to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy dietary fat, and protein. You need all of these things as part of a healthy diet.
However, it’s important to point out that protein can play an especially important role in tamping down those annoying hunger pangs.
Protein takes longer to digest, so it hangs out in your stomach longer, which gives your brain a break from sending out those hunger signals so frequently.
In fact, when protein and carbs are eaten together, protein can actually help slow down your body’s digestion of the carbohydrates, which helps you use them as energy rather than storing the excess carbohydrates as fat.
When you don’t feel as hungry, you are not nearly as tempted to snack or overeat, and you’re much more likely to stay on track with your dieting.
So, make sure you’re getting that protein. It really will help you lose weight.
Lack of Protein Leads to Other Problems
So far, we’ve talked about the importance of eating protein to support your activity level and muscle repair, and to prevent you from feeling hungry all the time.
Yet there are still a few very important signs of low protein intake you need to be aware of.
While it is rare to be truly deficient in protein, continually coming up short on your protein intake can begin to lead to some unexpected problems.
Keep an eye out for the following:
- Swelling – Insufficient protein intake can lead to bouts of edema, which is when parts of your body become swollen or puffy.
- Hair Loss – If you are noticing that you are suddenly pulling out handfuls of hair in the shower, that’s a problem. Take a look at your diet and make sure you’re getting enough protein.
- Frequent Illness – When your body is working overtime to make up for low protein, it can leave you open to more frequent colds, especially in the winter.
- Brain Fog – It’s not just your body that needs a wide variety of nutrients, but your brain, too. If you find you are having trouble concentrating at work, consider your diet as a potential source of the problem.
Of course, if you sense any major problems going on, always bring them to your doctor.
Otherwise, minor issues with weight loss or seeing the results you want in the gym can often be traced back to your diet, and more specifically to your protein intake.
Remember to look for healthy proteins whenever possible!
Lean meat such as chicken or turkey breast makes a great choice, as do fish, eggs, and some dairy products like yogurt.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it is especially important to watch your protein intake, and to make sure you’re getting it from plant-based sources such as tofu.
Now that you know how important protein is, it's time to take action. The best first step is to figure out how much you are eating currently.
Just use a simple food tracker like www.myfitnesspal.com and input a typical day of eating for you. Once you see how much you are getting (and which meals do or do not have protein), you can come up with a plan of attack.
The goal with protein is to spread it out through the day. So as you look at your current diet, see if there are any meals that are particularly low in protein and think of ways to add in more.
You can also look to make sure that each of your meals has roughly the same amount of protein. So if you need 120 grams each day, and you typically have 3 meals and a snack, then you would want 30 grams of protein each time you eat.
Now with all of this said, I think it's important to say that protein is not the only thing that matters when it comes to having a healthy diet.
It is a great first place to work, but if you want to make a lasting change in your health, then you will probably need to look at your diet as a whole, as well as your exercise program.
What you need is a complete program to help you reach your fitness goals. And that is where we can help!
If you are interested in making a holistic change in your diet and exercise, I would like to invite you to join our 28-Day Kickstart Program. In this program, we will give you the exact diet and exercise program you need to start feeling better while having a coach to keep you accountable to your plan.
You will get:
- Full fitness and goals assessment
- Personalized fitness coaching to teach you the exact exercises you need to safely and effectively move better and build stamina
- A simple meal plan to help you decrease inflammation
- 1-on-1 success coaching to help guide you as you work to change your diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits
We can help you get back on track and finally achieve the health and fitness you need to fully enjoy your life. You just need a program that is designed specifically for you.
Click here to learn more and take back control of your health and fitness today!
Mint Condition Fitness empowers people to take control of their fitness and fully enjoy the life they have built.