Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is a macronutrient, and is essential for the human body. Proteins are the main building blocks of our bodies cells, tissues and organs, that are made up of compounds called amino acids. Protein is an essential part of our diets, as it aids and promotes the growth and repair of our muscles. Consuming enough protein further aids with the building, growth and repair process of our muscles.
As a nutritionist I commonly find my clients wanting to focus on cutting out carbs or lowering their fat intake. However, when it comes to the third macronutrient, protein, it is usually neglected. When we think of protein, we usually think of the most common sources that are meat, chicken and fish. But protein can also include dairy products such as yoghurt, legumes such as beans and lentils, and vegetarian options such as tofu. Nowadays, protein supplements and bars are becoming popular.
When do we need protein?
It is pretty simple. Protein builds our muscles. The amino acids found in protein increases strength and improves elasticity. Exercise alone will not build muscle. We therefore need adequate amount of protein in the diet. Eating proteins at the right time can help get and improve results. The two best times to eat protein are early in the morning and after any workout:
When we sleep we use the energy and nutrients from the food we consumed at dinner the night before. During the night, this energy store becomes depleted, and we start to lose adequate amounts of protein, which we need for various reasons, including facilitating muscle and tissue growth and repair. By eating protein as part of our breakfast meal, we can help replenish these stores quicker.
As part of the growth, repair and rebuilding process of our muscles and cells, we create tears in our muscles when we exercise. The rebuilding and repairing processes require adequate protein. By consuming protein after a workout, you will build and maintain lean muscle at a faster rate.
When it comes to adjusting your diet, whether it is to improve your results at the gym, whether it is for weight management, or whether it is to improve your health, don’t lose sight of the entire picture. Yes it is crucial to eat the right amounts of good carbohydrates and fats, but it is also crucial to consider your protein! The amount of protein and the times at which you consume protein may play a role in successful weight management and in your overall health.