What is protein?
Protein serves a lot of primary functions in the body. Your body needs adequate protein to support strong muscles and bones, enhance tissue growth/repair, and make important enzymes, hormones and DNA. (27)
Protein foods include animal-based products, such as seafood, eggs, meat, and wild game, dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, poultry, and organ meats, as well as plant-based sources like tofu, tempeh, and seitan.
Protein and glucose
Protein has a very small impact on glucose levels and can help improve glycemic control. Eating protein before carbohydrates at mealtime may lead to a better glucose response. This is because eating protein first can help slow digestion, reducing the rise in glucose and keeping us fuller for longer. Whether you follow a diet that includes animal-based protein sources or a more plant-based eating style, including adequate protein in each meal has been shown to help improve your glucose responses to meals. (27, 28)
Protein and weight loss
Adequate protein intake is crucial in any weight loss plan, as this macronutrient plays a key role in body composition. When we talk about weight loss, we aim for the majority of the weight to come from fat stores, not from muscle (lean mass). Preservation of lean mass can help support a highly functioning metabolism, resulting in improvements in body composition. (29)
Additionally, protein has been shown to increase satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrates or fat and is thought to help promote a reduction in caloric intake. This could be because protein has been shown to reduce ghrelin levels, the hormone that increases hunger and appetite, while simultaneously increasing the levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full. (30, 31)
There are a few different ways to think about how much protein you should be getting each day. Historically, a general recommendation has been to aim for 10-35% of your calories from protein. However, current research suggests that aiming for 1.6-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight or 1.2-2 grams per kilogram of ideal body weight may be more appropriate to maintain current muscle and support weight loss efforts. A good rule of thumb is to include 20-30 grams of protein in each meal, but this can vary from person to person. As always, your Nutrisense nutritionist can help you determine the most appropriate protein target for you. (32)
The type and quality of protein are important to consider. Choose high-quality protein sources as often as possible. Supplementing with a good-quality protein powder can also help you reach your daily protein target.
Protein sources to include:
- Shellfish such as oysters, clams, and shrimp
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Grass-fed red meat - beef, lamb, pork
- Wild game
- Unsweetened Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or cheese
- Poultry such as chicken, turkey, and duck
- Vegetarian sources such as tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts, nut butter, and seitan
Protein sources to limit:
- Processed meats such as sausage and hot dogs
- Deep-fried meats
- Plant-based proteins with added sugars, such as flavored yogurt or traditional peanut butter
- Processed veggie burgers that contain high amounts of seed oils