Low carb, low fat, high protein, plant-based diets, paleo … the list goes on. There are so many different styles of eating that it is hard to find what works best for your body.
To find out which kind of distribution of your macronutrients fits your body and physique goals, you should first educate yourself!
Which foods contain protein, what kind of carbohydrates is best and how much fat should I eat to lose fat?
This series is focused on all that. Read all about my nutrition principles in my post „Eat to fuel your muscles“ .
Today, we will focus on protein. Whatever diet you chose to do, most of them promote a high protein intake. But why do we need protein and how much is too much?
Check out the other parts of this series too:
Why do we need Protein?
First of all, Protein is broken down into amino acids, which are then used to repair and build new cells, enzymes, neurotransmitters, DNA and RNA. Thus, eating low amounts of protein puts our body under a lot of stress because it lacks material to repair itself! This is why people who do not eat enough Protein often get sick – our immune system is active all the time and needs to be repaired every day!
Now, imagine that on top of that you do heavy strength training or start to prepare for a marathon. Your muscle fibers are teared down with every training session and need to be repaired too! Thus, highly active people need higher amounts of protein to optimize recovery.
However, this does not mean that you should stuff yourself with huge amounts of protein. You need the vitamins from fruits and complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to regulate our hormones and to make our organs function properly (especially our brain).
-> Related: Nutrition for muscle building and fat loss
How much Protein should I consume?
Most sports and nutrition scientists recommend 1-1.1g Protein/lbs of Bodyweight. That is a reasonable amount that our body can digest and use to fuel our cells.
People oftentimes overcomplicate nutrition but in reality it is very simple. Do not leave out any of the macronutrients and eat moderate amounts of all three of them.
- A diet high in protein is not healthy.
- A diet high in fat is not healthy.
- A diet high in carbohydrates is not healthy.
- With all three types of diets you will end up malnourished as you may lack essential fats, amino acids and vitamins.
Now, some people tolerate higher amounts of carbohydrates or fats, some need lower amounts. But that does not mean that any of the macronutrients should be eliminated. Find a balance of all three that makes you feel full of energy satiated and decreases cravings.
-> Related: 10 Tips to fight food cravings
The health benefits of Protein
- Weight loss: Preservation of lean muscle mass despite a caloric deficit. When muscle is broken down, the metabolism slows down and thus the body burns fewer calories. So, in order to lose weight, we need to keep as much lean muscle mass as possible. Also, the digestion of protein burns more calories than the food itself contains. Thus, it is easier to be in a caloric deficit by eating more protein.
- Lowers blood pressure, prevents strokes and heart disease
- Activates the immune system
- Lowers cholesterol
- Increases the amount of glutathione in our body, which is very important to eliminate free radicals that attack our DNA and lead to cancer
- More muscle mass prevents osteoporosis.
- Beautiful skin and hair: You might have heard of collagen, that makes your skin and hair look smooth and full. Collagen is a protein!
- Muscle building
So, if we should eat higher amounts of protein, does this mean we have to eat meat 3-4 times a day? No, definitely not. In fact, a diet high in animal protein might lead to gout.
I try to get all the essential amino acids from as many different sources as possible. Unfortunately, I have a very sensitive digestive system and cannot tolerate beans of any kind.
My favorite sources of protein:
- Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese
- organic Chicken (breast and thighs)
- organic Lean beef
- Almond flour
- Beans of any kind
- Complex carbohydrates (Quinoa, oats)
- Green vegetables
- organic whey protein powder*
- self-made high protein pancakes, cakes, cookies (made with almond flour and greek yoghurt)
*Occasionally, on a heavy strength training day, I drink a protein shake with an organic protein powder and coconut milk. I recommend buying organic protein supplements, as they are more efficient and I do not have any problems digesting them. The brand I use is very expensive, so I only use it once a week.
Too much of anything is not good
You can find a lot of different guides on how much protein is healthy on the internet. Also, there is a general misconception among people who may not be into the fitness path or educated in nutrition that Protein has negative effects on our health and eating higher amounts of protein is only for „bodybuilders“.
I already addressed the saying that Protein damages the kidneys in my post „Eat to fuel your muscles“ (in a nutshell: you need to drink enough water, then moderate-high amounts of protein are not unhealthy).
I hope you liked this post and find your own balance. People ask me how I can pay attention to my foods and work out and still be able to study all day for medical school. You will find that once you understand how the body works, living a healthy lifestyle is not that hard.
At the end of the day, I look back and I am happy I nourished my body with real food, worked off the stress with a good training session and still enjoyed a little treat after dinner. I guess this is the first step of finding inner peace and developing self-love.
This might sound weird to come from a going-to-be-doctor, but: Educate yourself and be aware of what happens in your body and you will soon be your own doctor!