In the previous blog we looked at the basics of proteins and how much protein you need. This might still leave some questions unanswered. What’s the obsession with high-protein diets? Am I getting enough protein from my normal food?
Let’s get into it.
High protein diets
High-protein diets are very popular today for various health and fitness goals. If the diet contributes to 2- 2.2 g per kilogram of body weight, it is a high protein diet. These are in fact beneficial for you in many ways. Interestingly, a typical Indian meal doesn’t reach even a gram per kilogram of body weight. Protein is highly satiating, which means it can help you feel fuller for longer periods. This reduces cravings and overeating and is ideal for weight management. High-protein diets support the maintenance and growth of lean muscle mass. This is essential if you are an athlete, bodybuilder, or someone engaging in strength training.
What are proteins & why are they important for our health?
The word protein by its origin claims the primary importance in our health and nutrition. [It comes from the Greek word ‘Proteios’ meaning ‘first rank or primary’] It is a crucial macronutrient that forms the building blocks of the body. Protein is essential for repairing and building tissues and is therefore responsible for any growth that occurs in our body.
Antibodies, which are specialized proteins, help defend the body against harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. If your diet lacks sufficient protein, it can weaken the immune response and make you more susceptible to infections. As we grow old, we are bothered by muscle pains, joint pains and what not! Protein is the defense mechanism that fights against cell degenerating and helps cell recovery.
High protein diets also boost metabolism because the body burns more calories during protein digestion, potentially contributing to a higher metabolic rate. High-protein foods are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, which promote overall nutrient density in the diet.
However, word of caution- Though eating high protein diets is good for kidneys, if you have a grade 1 pre-existing kidney disease, then you must consult a doctor before increasing protein levels in food. Relying heavily on animal-based protein sources, particularly those high in saturated fats, may increase the risk of certain health issues such as heart disease, high cholesterol, and increased inflammation. Moderation and wise choices of protein sources are key here.
I am a vegetarian, do I get enough protein?
The lower absorption of proteins in plant foods means that if plants are your only source of protein, you’ll need more protein from them in order to get the same benefit from animal-based proteins and meet your body’s needs.
It seems like all protein sources around you are animal-based. This is absolutely not true. There is a plethora of plant-based protein options which are easily available and sustainable. To begin with, lentils and legumes like toor dal, green moong dal, masoor dal, rajma, and chole. While these foods have a high quantity of proteins, the quality in them is below par due to the lack of a few amino acids. Thus, these dishes need to be combined with whole grains like rice and wheat to get the complete amino acid ratio. It also comes with the concern of increased calorie and carbohydrate consumption.
To solve this issue, you can turn to soy products like soy chunks, tofu, tempeh, and edamame. If you consume diary products, milk, cheese, paneer, and yogurt are good sources of protein. These are protein sources that are complete and have all the 9 essential amino acids in them in the right quantity. As these are calorie dense, be mindful of the quantity you consume.
Oh wait! Whey Protein?
Another source that has been gathering popularity is whey protein. It is a diary product that has a biological value of 91, which means that almost 90% of protein is absorbed by the body for protein synthesis. Biological value is a metric which tells us the quality of protein absorption and synthesis from the food we consume. Whey protein is one of the most comfortable and convenient sources of protein for fitness enthusiasts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking whey protein when you are not able to meet the minimum requirement of protein from whole foods.
Now that we have all the basic facts right, it is important not to be mislead by misinformation and myths.
- More protein doesn’t necessarily mean bigger muscles. Muscle growth depends on a combination of proper nutrition, training, and recovery.
- You might also think that you only need to take protein if you are going to the gym. In fact, protein plays an important role in our overall health and is necessary for a healthy functioning body.
- A well-balanced diet can provide enough protein. Supplements are only necessary if your diet lacks sufficient protein intake.
- Protein consumption also doesn’t lead to weight gain. Excess calories cause weight gain and therefore your choice of protein source becomes decisive. A high-protein diet can support weight loss by improving satiety and increasing metabolism.
What’s the wait then, grab your favourite protein rich foods and get ready to level up your fitness goals!