Whoever told you that protein and muscles go hand in hand was right. Every organ in your body, from your brain, heart, and lungs down to the most miniscule cell, is made up of protein. Everything your body does, whether it is voluntary or involuntary, whether you are aware of it or not, whether you are awake or unconscious, involves protein. That’s how significant protein is. Even its name implies importance. Protein comes from the Greek word ‘proteios’ that means ‘of primary importance’ or ‘holds first place’. If this doesn’t motivate you to get your fill of protein, I don’t know what will.
So, does protein help build your muscles? Absolutely! Protein is made up of chains of amino acids and these are considered the building blocks of muscles. How does it work? Keep in mind that when you workout, your body is in a “breaking down” mode. It consumes as much energy in your reserves as you can in that span of time, depending on the intensity of your workout. Your fat stores, glycogen stores, and your protein stores are being depleted. Ever hear bodybuilders or athletes talk about “holding on” to their muscle? It’s because when you lose some muscle when you workout, it is a chain reaction. When you have used up all of your energy reserves from carbs, your body then gets its energy from fat to sustain you. And when you are nice and lean, you have the tendency to lose protein to energy expenditure as well, leaving your muscle fibers a bit injured. When you have eaten post-workout, your protein then comes swooping in like a knight in shining armor to patch up all the damage your workout has done and voila! Good as new!
However, protein and exercise go hand in hand. You cannot build your body into the sculpted and toned dream just by eating lots of protein alone. It is imperative that as you increase your protein intake, your activity level or your workout routine intensifies as well. If you keep your activity at the same level with no significant changes, you will most likely gain weight. But more than that, excess protein levels in the body will put you at risk for kidney and heart problems. When the body detects anything excessive in our body, it has a certain compensatory process where it switches into help-mode to get our body into a healthy balance. Amazing, right? We are made with our own repair system! Anyway, in this case, your kidneys, which filter your blood to keep it squeaky clean and free of toxic waste, are now more stressed because of the added workload. I mean, it already has a 24/7 job cleaning and excreting your body waste without you adding more to its responsibilities. So by increasing protein, without increasing activity level, your kidneys have to kick up the intensity and become overworked and exhausted over time. This now leads to kidney problems. And when you have kidney problems, you can count on the fact that heart problems come soon after.
So how much protein is healthy? The experts recommend an average of 10% to 35% of the calories you ingest in a day should be protein-rich. Break out the measuring tins, weighing scales, and calculators because this means that you will have to take in about 45 to 55 grams of protein per day. If you think about it, it is actually not that hard, seeing how most food has nutritional labels at their back. As for whole foods, it would be best to keep these in mind:
• 3 ounces of chicken or tuna have about 21-22 grams of protein
• One cup of yogurt has 11 grams of protein
• 3 ounces of shrimp has 18 grams of protein
• 3 ounces of cooked egg has 7 grams of protein
• 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein
See how easy it is to get your fill of protein? There should be no more excuses.
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