In the recent renaissance of nutrition for health and fitness, no nutrient has received as much attention as protein, with multiple studies carried out every year and constant debates within the scientific and fitness community on the optimal amount, type and even timing of protein.
The reason for this immense interest is due mainly to the benefits that protein has for overall health, physique development and sports performance and, while many still debate how much protein is needed, along with when it is necessary, to obtain optimal results, all agree that it is a highly important nutrient.
Below, we lay out the reasons protein is considered so highly in health and fitness nutrition and how protein should be included in the diet to maximize its benefits.
Most Hormones and Materials in the Cell are Made from Protein
Everything in the body is made from cells, from the organs to the muscles and even the skin, hair and nails. Each cell forms from different proteins. This role in cell production and growth is why eating different proteins increases the creation of different proteins and cell growth.
As well as the cells themselves, hormones, which act as the body’s messengers and can influence everything from behavior and mood, are also formed from protein, explaining how protein intake can significantly affect hormone balance.
Between aiding cell growth and hormone production, protein acts as an essential nutrient for health and wellness with a pivotal role in developing the body at all levels, not just improving physique or muscle size.
You can attain these benefits by eating a broad range of protein from a variety of sources in each meal, including fish, meat, eggs, dairy and even gelatin, which can help provide both a high level of protein and a host of other beneficial nutrients.
Protein is Essential for Muscle Growth
As well as improving health and influencing behavior, the most well-known benefit of protein among fitness enthusiasts is its ability to increase muscle mass.
This ability stems from the pivotal role protein has in causing cell growth and is particularly potent when combined with physical activity like resistance training.
This increase in muscle growth also means an increase in strength and, as one study shows, a decreased risk of disease and improved health.
When looking to maximize muscle growth, it is important to note that dairy based proteins like whey protein and casein have been shown to be superior for enhancing muscle protein synthesis, especially when taken around a workout.
So, to optimize muscle growth, dairy, as well as meat-based protein, should be regularly consumed and as close to a workout as possible.
Protein Can Decrease Hunger
A group of hormones that protein seems to have a significant effect on are those that are related to hunger and satiety, which is the feeling of “fullness” you experience after a big meal.
Increasing protein intake has been shown to increase hormones that cause satiety and decrease hormones that cause hunger, which can be very useful in helping those looking to lose weight and fight obesity.
Once again, dairy and meat-based protein seem to be the most effective for this, with egg protein also showing promise. So, adding some lean meat or eggs to your meal should be considered when eating for weight loss.
Protein Helps Promote Recovery From Exercise
Another reason to take in a protein-rich meal, or a high-quality protein supplement, like those from Olympus Labs or other highly regarded manufacturers, before or after a workout is that it can help promote recovery and sustain strength levels in subsequent sessions while minimizing soreness.
This enhanced recovery can allow a greater amount of training to be done and allow more progress towards your fitness goals, or, if you’re an athlete, enable you to maintain high levels of performance in competition.
Whey protein has been shown in multiple studies to have the greatest effect on recovery, with egg protein following closely behind, and should be given priority when organizing your workout meals and supplementation.
Protein Aids Fat Loss
Along with boosting satiety hormones protein also has the highest Thermic Effect of Feeding, meaning the body burns more calories digesting protein than any other nutrient.
This higher amount of calories burned means that it is easier to lose weight when eating a protein-rich diet than any other.
Increasing protein intake also helps protect muscle mass and during weight loss and directly help abdominal fat loss, ensuring that any weight that is lost when dieting is due to a drop in body fat levels and not from lean muscle.
From looking at the above benefits, it’s obvious why experts regard protein so highly regarded by for health and fitness. However, as with all nutrients, the amount taken in each day is vital when looking to obtain all of the perks mentioned.
As such, from reviewing current research, around 1.8 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is the recommended amount to achieve the maximum amount of benefits.
You can take in this required amount with as many meals as desired with some protein preferably kept close to your workout.