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Most of your body depends on protein. Your muscles, bones, skin, hair, blood cells, hormones, tissues, organs, and digestive enzymes all rely on protein. According to the Institute of Medicine, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. In other words, an average female who weighs 150 pounds will need 54 grams, or 216 calories, of protein.
What? Stop right there! That’s equivalent to one chicken breast, one cup of Greek yogurt and a few almonds throughout an entire day! This is not nearly enough to sustain the needs of a growing teenager, an active adult or an aging individual. It’s also not going to provide anyone with the macronutrient balance that’s needed to sustain optimal energy levels.
So, what if your goal is to lose weight? A lack of protein in your diet also hinders your ability to safely lose weight and could, in turn, harm your health.
Protein is metabolically active. This means that it takes a lot of time for your gastrointestinal system to break it down, absorb it and assimilate it. This is why you feel fuller after eating a meal high in protein compared to a meal that’s high in carbs. Anyone who has been on a high carb diet will tell you that they’re hungry all the time! Protein also supports muscle tissue turnover, and when your goal is to lose weight, you certainly want to avoid losing muscle mass. Muscle is actually made up of protein and needs to be properly supported on a cellular basis through consistent protein intake.
Strong muscles are important for a number of reasons. In terms of weight loss, we need muscles to keep moving and stay physically active! Protein also fuels our energy levels. When eaten regularly throughout the day, it helps regulate blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar levels stay consistent, our bodies are more capable of burning fat for fuel. Not only does this assist with weight loss – specifically fat loss – but it also keeps our energy levels high all day long. Eating enough protein improves the overall quality of life, helps you concentrate for longer periods of time and decreases feelings of fatigue!
Popular protein-filled meals and snacks to try:
If weight loss is your goal, then protein will have your back! Not only does it provide your body with energy, but it’ll also help with muscle repair and recovery after a strenuous workout. Consult with a doctor or dietitian to find out what daily amount of protein is ideal for your goals and lifestyle and start making it an important part of your balanced diet.
Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.
Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.
She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.
Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!