Thursday, January 12, 2012

Putting protein back into my life

Tonight I had a (complimentary) monthly appointment with my trainer at my gym. It was going well until he suggested taking my body fat percentage.

The intention behind taking my body fat percentage was to have a tangible way to track my progress as I integrate more strength training into my workout routine (which I truly do support). However, it doesn't feel the best when your body fat percentage is more than what you thought it was.

In trying to pinpoint causes for the change, my trainer asked me about my diet and my protein consumption. I admitted that over the years, I've decreased my intake. I am a big fan of "plant-focused" nutrition and meals that have a Mediterranean influence. I am not a vegetarian or vegan but I have moved in that direction somewhat over the years (I'd say I'm a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being a total over-indulgent meat lover, and 1 being a hardcore vegan).

For the sake of continuing the story...

After my appointment was done, I rushed to the nearest grocery store (in classic Margie fashion) on an adventure I called "put as much protein in your cart that you can find in 10 minutes."

You name it, I bought it:

-low fat cottage cheese
-more Chobani yogurt (as if 8 containers in my fridge weren't enough)
-lean ground beef
-soy milk
-fresh salmon

I am excited to put more protein back into my diet. Looking back, my diet in the past month has consisted mostly of vegetables and higher fat snacks, like cheese and crackers. I am not someone who is overly concerned about fat ("everything in moderation" is my go-to saying), but I do believe in aiming for healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

I am excited to see if I notice any changes in the next few weeks. After all, protein is really important to eat while building muscle (strength training).

To end my post with a bang, let's hear from WebMD! :) The full article is very insightful, but I've posted my favorite findings below.

The Power of Protein

WebMD Feature

It's easy to understand the excitement. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a "macronutrient," meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called "micronutrients." But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply.

So you may assume the solution is to eat protein all day long. Not so fast, say nutritionists.

The truth is, we need less total protein that you might think. But we could all benefit from getting more protein from better food sources.

How Much Protein Is Enough?

We've all heard the myth that extra protein builds more muscle. In fact, the only way to build muscle is through exercise. Bodies need a modest amount of protein to function well. Extra protein doesn't give you extra strength. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Teenage boys and active men can get all the protein they need from three daily servingsfor a total of seven ounces.

  • For children age 2 to 6, most women, and some older people, the government recommends two daily servings for a total of five ounces.

  • For older children, teen girls, active women, and most men, the guidelines give the nod to two daily servings for a total of six ounces.

Everyone who eats an eight-ounce steak typically served in restaurants is getting more protein that their bodies need. Plus they're getting a hefty amount of artery-clogging saturated fat as well.

Choose Your Proteins Wisely

The type of protein you eat may play a role in successful weight loss and in your overall health.

Consumption of large quantities of processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats, have been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer, Hu says. You'll have a harder time maintaining weight loss if you eat these proteins often, and you may be damaging your body.

Hu and other nutrition experts recommend getting dietary proteins from the following sources:

  • Fish: Fish offers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and, in general, less fat than meat.

  • Poultry: You can eliminate most of the saturated fat by removing the skin.

  • Beans: Beans contain more protein than any other vegetable protein. Plus, they're loaded with fiber that helps you feel full for hours.

  • Nuts: One ounce of almonds gives you 6 grams of protein, nearly as much protein as one ounce of broiled ribeye steak.

  • Whole grains: A slice of whole wheat bread gives you 3 grams of protein, plus valuable fiber.

"A lot of plant-based foods like soy and legumes can give you the same amount of protein as meats. I have nuts for breakfast every day, because they not only give you a lot of protein, but they're healthy sources of fat," Hu says.

So when you decide to cut carbs and boost protein, take Hu's advice: Don't lose sight of the big picture.


  1. I can attest that protein leans you out, so kudos to you girl. I tried eating a lot of protein, especially for breakfast, and completely leaned out.

    Good info with this article!

    1. That's great to know that it works! I hope so. After reading the WebMD article, it appears that I am probably getting enough already, but it doesn't hurt to be more intentional about it. Fingers crossed!

      What protein inclusive meals do you like for breakfast?

    2. LOADS OF EGGS! Thanks for the comment girlie. I just started reading your blog and LOVE LOVE LOVE the positive voice you have. SO hard to find, especially around Seattle. Mind if I add you to my blog roll?

    3. Ha! I am having eggs this morning! Too funny. Thank you for the thoughtful words, that is so sweet of you to say. I really hope that my Blog can inspire others through carrying that voice. Of course you can.

  2. This was such a helpful blog post. I thought I knew how much protein I was supposed to consume. Man am I wrong!

    1. Glad to hear, Lucy! It's good to "check in" with ourselves now and then. :)