Why We Love Protein

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Protein is one of my favorite macronutrients, because it’s highly satiating. What I mean by that, is that a lot of people actually struggle in their relationship with food because they feel like they’re always hungry. No matter how much they eat they never experience a sense of fullness. You have probably experienced this when you sit down to eat a bag of chips, or in my case popcorn, which is my carbohydrate drug of choice.

There are a lot of these foods, specifically carbohydrates like popcorn, chips, breads, pastas, baked goods, and foods like peanut butter and almond butter that we sometimes don’t have a ‘stop button’ for and we never really get that deep sense of satisfaction that is different from that feeling of being distended or bloated.  You’ve probably experienced this before, when you’ve eaten something like an entire bag of chips, and you feel like you have a ‘food baby’ sticking out of your belly.

It’s a different sensation to actually feeling satisfied. On the flip side, let’s imagine that you sit down for a steak dinner with some vegetables. At the end of that meal you’ll feel full and satisfied. When we eat really protein rich foods like eggs, meat, and fish we get a hormone secretion (called glucagon) that will actually signal to our brain, yes we have eaten, and yes we are full.

This can be really powerful for someone who struggles with their appetite. When I’m doing nutrition coaching, I’m always looking to make sure that they actually get enough protein with all of their meals and snacks. Otherwise we have a hard time managing our cravings and we can easily overeat calories simply because we’re not getting that strong signal to the brain, glucagon, which we only get from protein-rich foods, letting us know that we’ve had enough to eat, and that we are full and satisfied.

What foods elicit the glucagon response?

Animal Proteins:
-All types of meat
-Full fat greek yogurt
-Full fat animal cheese

The reason I love the animal proteins is because the amino acids in these animal proteins are actually the most bio-available. So they are the easiest for our bodies to breakdown and assimilate. They are going to make our bodies feel the most satisfied. If you are typically relying on plant based proteins like, hemp, chia seeds, almonds, etc, you may not have the same appetite regulation that you may get from incorporating more animal proteins into your diet.

How much protein should I be eating every day?

This really depends on your goals and the type of diet you’ve decided you want to run with. People on the acidogenic diets need to be careful about the amount of protein they’re taking in each day. With these types of diets you’re consuming a lot of fat for your body to burn as fuel. You need to make sure you’re not taking in so much protein that it is actually converting it into a fuel source instead of a protein source. For someone that’s doing an acidogenic diet you may be eating closer to 80 or 90 grams of protein a day, which is still quite a bit, but it’s not going to be anywhere close to what I’ll recommend below.

I generally recommend that people strive for one gram of protein for every gram of lean body mass. (How to Calculate your lean body mass.) And again, I recommend animal based proteins like meats, eggs, and full-fat dairy.) If you are someone who is trying to gain lean muscle mass you are going to want to dramatically increase the amount of protein you’re taking in every day. The reason is, our bodies don’t store protein (amino acids) from day-to-day. In this situation you may want to be taking in a gram of protein for every body of body weight. Or even as far as 1.5 grams of protein for every pound of body mass. That’s a lot of protein! In this case you’ll need supplemental proteins like whey, protein powder, etc. Otherwise, it becomes nearly impossible to digest that much whole foods protein on a daily basis.

How should I track my protein intake?

I use a nutrition tracker called My Fitness Pal to help me track my macronutrient intake. I use this to make sure that I’m getting the right amount of protein. There are 7 grams of protein in every ounce of whole foods animal protein. So if I take my goal of 127 grams of protein and divide that by 7 I know I need 18 ounces of animal protein. I’m sure this sounds like a lot of food to a lot of you. But a lot of you are going to find that when you’re putting an emphasis on getting the right amount of protein in your diet you won’t be reaching for those carbohydrates and fats to quench your hunger.

Using myself as an example, here’s how I’m going to get those 18 ounces of animal protein everyday: Breakfast consisting of eggs and breakfast meat (3-4 ounces of protein). Lunch with a piece of chicken or lunch meat (5 ounces of protein). Snacks like hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, or a leftover meatball (4 ounces of protein). Dinner cut of meat or fish (5 ounces of protein). Once you try this on for size you should notice that you feel exceptionally less hungry.

Is there a reason I get gas when I eat more protein?

If you don’t have enough stomach acid, either from leaky gut syndrome, low stomach acid, or you don’t have healthy gut bacteria, you can definitely experience some gas and cramping. Make sure you’re chewing your few and make sure you’re avoiding gluten and other foods that could be compromising your gut health and integrity. Then start consuming something like kombucha, kefir or sauerkraut, or some other dense source of probiotics, that way you’re making sure you’re supporting your digestion as you’re increasing your protein intake.

What are the pros of taking fish oil supplements?

If you are someone that can’t get really high quality sourced proteins, you may have an imbalance between your omega 3 and omega 6 ratio in your body. Omega 3s and omega 6s are fatty acids that we essentially have to have. Typically we get way too many omega 6s in our diet and not enough omega 3s. You’re going to get omega 3s from healthy meat, healthy fish, healthy eggs, things of that nature. You’re going to get omega 6s from soy, peanut, canola oil, grapeseed oil, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Even the beef you get at the grocery store, if it is not grass-fed, is going to have more omega 6s than omega 3s. The problem with having too many omega 6s in your system is that you can experience systemic inflammation, which causes aches and pains. The way to combat that is to decrease the amount of omega 6s you’re eating by decreasing the amount you’re going out to eat, being very conscious about the sourcing of your protein, and additionally including something like a fish oil supplement to help balance out the omega 3 and omega 6 ratio in your diet.

What is the difference between grass-fed meat and non-grass-fed?

When you’re buying grass-finished beef you’re actually getting more omega 3 fats than you would from a grain-fed cow. You’re also getting less antibiotics and steroids in your meat. The reason is, when you take a cow and feed it grains during the last few months of it’s life, the animals tend to get sick because they are being taken off their natural diet of grass, and being put on a diet that is typically grain. This will negatively impact their digestive system, because they are herbivores that are not supposed to be eating grain, and they’ll need antibiotics and steroids to stay healthy.

If you are constrained by your budget and can’t afford to buy grass-fed meat, or can’t find it in your area, then buying the leanest cuts of meat you can find is absolutely the way to go. You’re going to decrease the amount of omega 6 you’re getting from the fat in a grain-finished steak, and you’re going to decrease the amount of antibiotics and steroids that you’re getting from that meat, since animals tend to store those things in their fat.

Hopefully that was helpful for you all! If you have more questions please feel free to post them anytime on our social media. Be sure to join us in November for our next LIVE Q&A!


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