You only have to have a look on Instagram at the moment to see that protein is having a moment. As a nutrition buzzword, it seems like people are eating protein round the clock, possibly without understanding why. So, we decided to take a look at the hottest nutrient around and see exactly why we need it, how to get it and what it does.
Protein is one of the most important macronutrient when it comes to achieving your body composition and training goals. Here are the reasons why you need to start increasing your protein intake if you want to look great, feel good and train hard.
It’s a building block
Protein is the building blocks for new muscle tissues. New muscle tissue increases our resting metabolic rate (Imagine muscle tissue as an engine that burns calories very quickly compared to fat tissue). This means that if you add some muscle tissue, you are actually burning more calories even while you’re sitting down.
It has a greater thermic affect
Protein has a greater “thermic affect” when compared to carbohydrates and fats. This means that we actually burn more calories in the digestion and breakdown of protein foods, versus carbohydrate or fat foods. Ever heard of the term “meat sweats”? Well this term comes from the thermic affect of protein. The more energy we burn, the more heat we release, hence the meat sweats after a protein rich meal. Burning calories while you’re eating. We call that a winner.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning it keeps us fuller for longer. Have you ever noticed that when you have a carbohydrate meal for breakfast without protein, like fruit or cereal, you’re sure to end up raiding the biscuit jar at 11am? This is because carbs alone don’t keep us full and satisfied for too long.
It stabilises us
Protein helps to stabilise our blood sugars. When our blood sugars aren’t stabilised, it can cause hunger, cravings, mood swings and dips in energy. When we add protein into a meal, this keeps our blood sugars more stable and we’re less likely to experience that drastic drop, which can turn us into a moody, hangry monster!
So, what can we do?
Here are some tips for keeping your protein high without reaching for a protein bar. Everyone always does a good job at dinner time, but breakfast, lunch and snacks can be that bit tougher.
Add egg whites to omelettes, as lots of protein from eggs means adding in lots of fats and kcals too. It’s not that the egg yolk is in anyway bad, in fact, it contains more nutrients than the egg white. But to save you from going over on calories, it’s best to use 1-2 eggs and make up the rest using egg whites.
Portable fish like smoked salmon, tinned tuna are a handy option and can easily be added to salads.
There’s no reason you can’t use dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. Or better yet, batch cook a big pot of chilli con carne or chicken curry, and separate in it into individual freezer bags to last you for a few days to come.
Look for high protein yogurts, ones with >8g of protein per 100g. Add these yoghurts to your oats, or have as a snack with some nuts, fruit, or my favorite – Chopped up Nakd bar 🙂 They also sell them handy snack pots too, so no excuse!
Michelle Hone is the head nutrition coach at The Fit Clinic; performance nutritionist with Bray Wanderers FC and Kilmacud Crokes Senior GAA Football and has worked on a one to one level with over 400 clients, including international athletes. For more information visit thefitclinicnutrition.com