I bet you’re just like me.
You’ve probably felt the same way am me about protein at some point in your life.
I’ve been active my entire life. I played sports growing up, bike raced in college, and continue to remain active even during pregnancy. But, for a long time, I associated protein with getting overly large muscles. You don’t want to end up looking like a dude, amirite??
Most of the bottles of protein powder I see at Costco are laden with pictures of dudes as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday.
So, I avoided it.
Sadly, my misconceptions about protein are all too common amongst many of my female clients and friends.
But, ladies, we need protein.
Protein helps build our immune system. Without it, we wouldn’t survive. That’s straight-up real talk.
Protein is a crucial nutrient in the body. It is used to build many of the hormones, enzymes, and other vital structures.
For these reasons, we need to understand it’s importance, address the common myths, and debunk them.
Why women should add more protein to their diet
Want to lose weight and slim down?
Protein is the answer.
Now wait a minute. We’re not talking about Atkins or the Ketogenic diet. That’s taking protein to a potentially unhealthy extreme.
I’m talking about eating enough protein and the right protein.
Whenever we eat food, our bodies use energy to digest the food.
Eating food burns calories?
Yeah, girl. Pretty cool, huh?
Protein has the highest thermic effect of food (TEF) meaning it takes our bodies the most amount of energy to consume protein.
A recent study looked at dieters and found that those who consumed more protein than their dieting counterparts lost more fat.
A calorie deficit leads to weight loss. But, when dieters focused more on protein, more of the weight they lost was from fat.
After a hard workout, The best way to recover is to sleep well and to sleep often. But, for many, more sleep isn’t’ feasible.
More protein can help facilitate recovery by repairing muscles damaged during exercise. It can help for the constantly-tired woman.
Get sick less
Protein is essential for repair and rebuilding. Therefore, it plays an important role in our immune system.
When our immune systems are functioning optimally, we get sick less often.
There is a growing body of evidence that a protein-rich diet can help to lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lower blood pressure.
However, it’s important to eat the right types of protein. High levels of red meat consumption have been associated with diseases such as colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Best sources of protein for women
- Meat sources such as lean chicken breast, bison, or ground turkey.
- Eggs are a great and cost-effective go-to.
- Dairy sources such as greek yogurt, kefir, or cottage cheese are awesome depending on how you digest dairy.
- Last, (yes, this comes last) consider adding a protein powder supplement to your diet if you need an extra boost of protein.
How much protein do I need?
The amount of protein we women need is dependent on multiple factors. Most important of these factors is our activity level.
The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.36 g per pound of body mass in sedentary, generally healthy adults. A 150 lb women would consume around 54 g a day.
But, this is just the bare-minimum. If you are active and chasing after kids or on your feet all day, you need a bit more.
For people doing solid workouts on the daily, I recommend .5 to .8 g per pound of body mass.
Our hypothetical 150 lb woman would thus need about 75 to 120 grams of protein per day.
We only need a small amount of protein to survive, but more is required to thrive.
How much protein can our bodies digest at once?
A client of ours recently asked if he could eat more than 25 grams of protein per meal. He heard that our bodies can’t digest more than that at once. While this isn’t true, our bodies can’t digest infinite amounts of protein.
What I mean is that you can’t eat your 120 grams of protein in one sitting and call it quits for the day. Our bodies need protein stores to be continually replenished during the day.
You can easily split up your daily dose of protein into three meals and safely digest it all.
Signs you need más protein
Many people think gluten is evil. Eating gluten rots your brain and causes cancer, they say. But, many of our grandparents have lived into their 80’s and beyond without giving a second thought to eating cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and bread with dinner every night.
That being said, I think there is merit to the claim that processed carbohydrates are not a good staple in most people’s diet.
If you’re serious about your healthy and fitness you’ll want to make lean protein a staple in your diet.
In order to think clearly and operate well, a diet rich in protein and vegetables is optimal. When we are low in protein, our blood sugar can fluctuate leaving us feeling low on brain power.
If you don’t feel full after meals, you’re probably not eating enough protein. Protein helps increase our satiety or feeling of fullness.
Protein can help prevent nasty cases of hangry.
Protein plays an important role in building things. One of those “things” is our hair. If you notice thinning hair, it’s probably genetic. But, a little extra protein can help mitigate losses.
Like we talked about earlier, protein is important for repairing our muscles after a hard workout. Therefore, if protein levels are too low, we can feel run down and tired.
Protein helps build and support essential components in our immune system. Without sufficient levels of protein, our body will struggle to keep our immune system functioning optimally.
Let me finish by answering the burning question. Will extra protein give you huge muscles? Nope. It’s really hard to build large muscles. A little extra protein won’t cause you to get swole overnight.
So next time you finish a great workout, don’t shy away from downing a protein shake or eating an extra egg. Your body will thank you.