Whenever I ask women to share with me what they eat in a day, the one essential macronutrient they are always low on is protein. I’m not sure if it is because our hormones cause us to gravitate towards carbs, or if it’s because all of the quick/easy to grab foods lack protein. But, I am here to tell you that girl, you need more protein. And no, getting adequate amount of protein is not going to turn you into that “bulky” bodybuilder you don’t want to look like. But it will help you reach some goals, lose weight and live healthier. Why women need protein in their diet is what’s on the docket today.
We know that protein is one of the essential macronutreints our body needs to survive – if you want to learn more about the science, check out this blog. Otherwise, just take my word for it. Haha. So, we know that it is essential to survival, but why for women?
Women need protein for the following reasons:
Protein is made up of essential amino acids. This amino acids work to rebuild muscle tissue when it is broken down (like from a workout) but also helps to maintain the tissue overtime. No one wants to work to build muscle and then lose it due to poor nutrition choices. Not to mention that “toned” look you are all after, the one you call “Michele Obama arms” or “Claire Thomas abs”, is created by revealing muscle tissue already built…you need protein for that!
Protein is slow digesting. It takes hours for your body to break it down and use it, which means it keeps you fuller for a longer period of time. This helps with weight loss and stops the mindless snacking people tend to do when they get bored (like during a COVID19 state shutdown).
Protein is essential to keeping bones strong and heathy, and preventing osteoporosis or any other bone density disease in the future. Those who are low in calcium and vitamin D benefit more from adequate protein as those are both bone building vitamins/minerals as well. It is also proven that soy protein does not help the skeleton – so all that tofu, protein powder etc isn’t benefiting the bones!
One source of protein that is very abundant in our body is collagen! Collagen comes from foods we eat, and it helps to keep elasticity in the ligaments and tendons, this being it’s most important job. Another thing collagen does is boosts our hair and nail growth, and leaves us with glowing skin, also important jobs!
Whenever we exercise, we are breaking down muscle tissue. This means that with every squat and pushup, the tiny muscle fibers are tearing a little bit. These small tears in the muscle fibers are what leave us feeling sore and achy after a hard workout. Protein is essentail in repairing the damaged tissue to help us build stronger, bigger muscle fibers!
We learned above that protein helps us stay fuller, longer. Because protein takes so long to digest, it also helps to regulate our blood sugar. You want to know why you get hungry 2 hours after eating, or why you always want sweet/salty snacks? Because your blood sugar has spiked from eating foods that are not slowly digested. So by increasing protein intake and adding it into all of your meals, you are slowly increasing blood sugar instead of spiking it, which decreases our cravings. Protein also decreases the amount of ghrelin (hunger hormone) we produce during the day, another essential part of weight management.
Now that we understand the need for protein, how do we get it? Like is said before, most women I come across are not eating enough protein from day to day. Likely not on purpose, but just out of the sheer fact that it is hard to come up with meals that include all the necessary pieces – carbohydrate, protein, fat and vegetable. I thought I would share with you a list of foods that are great protein sources, but also ways you can sneak more into your meals!
• Egg whites
• Chicken sausage
• Deli meat
• Cottage Cheese
• String cheese
• Protein powder
• Protein bars
• Beef/turkey jerky
I am sure there are more, these are just the basics I have found.
Alright, now to share with you some ways you can add more protein to your days without feeling like all you do is eat!
1. Make a shake – this is by far the easiest way to get a bunch of protein in. Not to mention you can either add a bunch of ingredients and make it a full meal (like avocado, fruit, nuts/seeds), or you can just add protein and some small simple ingredients to make it a protein snack (ice and milk/water). Another great tip – add egg whites! Because they go through a process, they are actually pasteurized and you can just eat them raw. So, use that as the liquid of your shake!
2. Add egg whites to your breakfast – great way to increase volume and protein, without adding extra fats!
3. Bean/Lentil based pasta – if you are falling short, add in some pasta! Brands like Banza and Pasta Lensi have a full serving of protein in them. So by then adding in some meat, you are doubling your protein with just an average meal! Not to mention, you can eat more pasta and way less carbs!
4. Quick snacks – by having protein snacks on hand you are limiting both your overall snacking, but also poor food choice snacking. So grab some bars, shakes, deli meat, jerky, personal yogurt instead of maybe chips or crackers!
So ladies, moral of the story, increase your protein! Not only will it help you stay full, you will probably see your physique change more than you ever have! Losing weight and being “toned” isn’t about cutting calories, it’s about smart overall nutrition choices. And that starts with adequate protein!
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