Protein is at the top of the health and fitness industry, known for its many health benefits. Protein, as a macronutrient, is needed and used by the body to make enzymes, hormones, bones, muscles, skin, cartilage and blood.
For most people, protein consists of about 15% of a person’s average caloric intake. People could get considerably more health benefits from a protein diet that constitutes up to 30% of their daily caloric intake.
The “key” to getting the maximum amount of protein throughout the day is to eat foods that are naturally high in protein.
I typically get my protein intake with chicken or turkey breast, whey protein powder, eggs, salmon, pork roast, steak, yogurt, cottage cheese, tuna, beans, milk, and nuts.
For most people in the fitness industry, the rule of thumb is to consume 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of body weight. Even ½ a gram of protein per pound of body weight will lead to an abundance of health benefits.
A list of my top 15 Health Benefits of Protein Include:
1. Increases Muscle Mass
The main reason I eat an increased amount of protein throughout the week is to increase my lean muscle mass. Growing up, it was hard for me to put on any muscle, as hard as I worked out. It wasn’t until later after college that I realized that I was missing a big part of what it takes to build muscle in the first place.
I started to eat anything and everything that had a good amount of protein in it, but my main sources of protein were chicken breasts, eggs, tuna, and dairy. This inexpensive spread of protein laced foods allowed me to increase my muscle mass in a short amount of time. I could lift a lot more, jump a lot higher, and run a lot faster because of the increase in power my muscles would produce.
One study showed that as the duration, frequency, and volume of resistance training increase, protein supplementation may promote muscle hypertrophy and enhance gains in muscle strength in both untrained and trained individuals, also accelerating gains in both aerobic and anaerobic power.
My favorite whey protein supplement is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein Powder. I put a scoop in my shake every morning. My favorite kind is the double rich chocolate. If you’re strapped for time, throw it in a shaker with some water for a quick protein fix.
2. Reduces Appetite
One of the biggest problems in the world is the massive amounts of sugar people put into their bodies daily. Most of the sugar people are consuming is “fake” sugar such as aspartame. This kind of sugar tells your brain that you are not as full as you actually are causing you to eat more and put on weight.
Every time you eat sugary foods you reinforce neuropathways causing the brain to be hardwired for sugar, creating drug-like tolerances.
Flip the script and eat foods packed with protein to reduce your appetite and help you to eat less.
One study shows that protein helps reduce levels of the hormone ghrelin, a hormone that drives your appetite, allowing you to decrease the amount of calories you take into your body.
3. Increases Bone Health
Protein is one of the biggest contributors to excellent bone health. Astonishingly, 50% of your bone is made up of protein.
In one study, high meat intake was related to high bone mass.
You not only need it for the structure and integrity of the bone itself, but you also need it to absorb calcium.
Another study showed that low protein intake decreases calcium absorption and may also affect rates of bone formation and breakdown.
Strong bones will decrease your risk for bone loss, osteoporosis, and the potential for bone breaks as you get older.
4. Boosts Metabolism
Want to burn more calories every day? Eat more protein.
Boosting metabolism and increasing energy expenditure is achieved through the thermic effect of food, or the increase in the metabolic rate that occurs after a meal. In other words, the higher the thermic effect, the greater your metabolism.
In one article, based on a meta-analysis, the thermic effect of protein rich food was shown to increase by approximately 29 kJ/4184 kJ of ingested food for each increase of 10 percentage points in the percentage of energy from protein.
Furthermore, another study showed that energy expenditure was 297 kJ/d higher in subjects consuming a high-protein diet than those eating a low protein diet.
In essence, the more protein rich foods you eat, the higher your metabolism will be, and the more calories you will burn.
5. Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
Some of us may want to live forever. Unfortunately, it’s not quite possible today but you can at least eat foods that have certain anti-aging effects on the body. A diet high in protein is just one of the ways you can improve the quality and health of your hair, skin, and nails. For people with acne, it gets even better.
One study suggests there may be a connection between a low-glycemic diet and the reduced appearance of acne. Male patients with acne, aged 15 to 25, who followed a low-glycemic diet showed a reduction in acne lesions vs. the control group.
Eating a high protein diet will help, but make sure you remove things like milk chocolate, greasy foods, soft drinks, or peanuts for a better chance at success.
6. Lowers Blood Pressure
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America. A telling sign that you might be heading down that road is if you are person that has elevated blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, protein may be a good way to help you get back down to healthy levels. Whey protein is not just an essential piece for putting on muscle, protein will help lower your blood pressure in the process.
One study had 38 participants who complete 8 weeks of unhydrolyzed milk protein intake improve their vascular reactivity, biomarkers of endothelial function, lipid risk factors, and reduced their systolic blood pressure 3.9 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure 2.5 mmHg.
7. Speeds Up Injury Recovery
If you are injured, or have a history of often getting injured, your much more likely to get back on your feet quickly if you regularly consume a diet high in protein.
Injuries themselves are terrible, but if you can’t get back to where you were before the injury happened in a relatively short amount of time, then you are likely to lose a lot of ground and make it difficult to get back to top athletic condition. One great thing about protein is, it can reduce the time it takes to get back to optimal form.
One review showed that a relatively high protein intake was related to a decreased loss in muscle mass after an injury compared to someone who has a low protein intake. It was shown that deficiencies of energy, vitamins, minerals and macronutrients, particularly protein, will impair wound healing and exacerbate loss of muscle and tendon mass and function.
Think of it as insurance for getting back on your feet quickly.
8. Helps Burn Fat
Being overweight or obese can lead to an abundance of health problems, from diabetes to heart disease and cancer. It’s imperative that you start concentrating on burning some of those extra pounds to reduce the risk of these detrimental conditions.
Part of your weight loss goal should include the need to shed fat. One amazing health benefit of protein lies in its ability to burn fat.
One study showed that protein has a much higher thermic effect than that of carbs, making it an ideal assistant in your fat burning quest. Just remember it should be part of a proper diet and exercise regimen throughout the week for a much greater likelihood of success.
9. Boosts Immune System
With the prevalence of the Flu, Coronavirus, strep, common cold, and so many other ailments, its imperative you have a healthy immune system to fight off infection and disease. People often think that all they need is a multivitamin and some vitamin C to keep themselves healthy. What people don’t realize is protein also plays an important part in a healthy immune system.
One article shows that the protein Myb plays a vital role in keeping our immune system healthy, and preventing the development of immune and inflammatory diseases.
Add some exercise to your weekly routine and your immune system will be strong and resilient for a long time.
10. Lowers Diabetes Risk
Diabetes, a condition that impairs the body and its ability to process blood glucose, affects over 34 million people in the U.S. As you gain weight, become older and less active, diabetes may decide to enter your life. Besides proper diet and exercise, you can add a protein into your diet, helping you reduce the risk of contracting diabetes.
One meta-analysis shows that total protein and animal protein could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in both males and females, and plant protein decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes in females.
Anything you can do to lower your risk of disease, whether it be diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, the better of you’re going to be in the long run.
11. Better Sleep
At least 7 hours of sleep is essential for being mentally sharp, healthy, energetic and stress free. Getting the optimal amount of sleep can become difficult with all the distractions and frustrations of life. Preparing yourself for an excellent night of sleep can be the difference between a night of restful sleep, or a night of tossing and turning for hours.
Luckily, protein can help you sleep through the night.
One set of results from 2 randomized control trials showed that habitual protein intake was positively correlated with sleep duration and an earlier midpoint of sleep. Evidence also shows that consuming protein before bed is associated with better sleep quality including fewer wake ups throughout the night. Normal sleepers tend to consume protein at a much higher rate than people with insomnia.
One pillow I LOVE is the Dream Rite Shredded Hypoallergenic Memory Foam Pillow. If you’re having trouble sleeping, this pillow will put you right down. Use this along with proper protein intake and you will sleep like a baby.
12. Improved Brain Function
Everyone would love their brain to function properly all times of the day. As we get older, things start to go downhill, including our brains. Over 44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s. If you want to avoid your mental decline in thinking, behavior and social interaction, than it’s time to start doing something about it.
One study showed that those with the highest amount of protein consumption, around 118g per day, were 12 times less likely to have high levels of amyloid beta (Aβ), a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, than those who ate only 54g per day.
Protein optimizes brain function and is necessary for getting nutrients to your brain cells, maintaining a healthy heart/brain balance along with proper brain regulation.
13. Helps to Lose Weight
Are you concerned about losing weight? One of the many health benefits protein provides is through its ability to help you lose weight. Anything you can do to help you shed those pounds will be a win-win in the end. Protein will do this by boosting your metabolism, burning the fat, reducing appetite, increasing satiation, helping you sleep soundly, ultimately leading you to lose weight.
One study showed that after 6 months, the high protein group achieved a greater weight loss than the medium protein group. A diet high in protein enhanced weight loss and provided a better long-term maintenance of reduced intra-abdominal fat stores.
I know how hard it is for some people to lose weight, so why not give yourself every opportunity to do so in a safe and effective way. Add proper diet and exercise and the weight will slide right off.
14. Improved Nervous System
Another ancillary benefit of protein is its ability to help damaged nerves grow back after injury. They do this by blocking other proteins that hinder the recovery process.
If you are the unfortunate victim of a spinal cord injury, one study shows that the protein fragment NEP1-40 promoted nerve regrowth in rats with damaged spine and brain cells.
15. Increased Satiation
Last but not least is proteins ability to make you feel full. A high protein diet will make you feel fuller faster, helping you to eat less, and lose weight. The quicker you get full, the less you will eat.
One study showed that protein-induced satiety has been shown acutely, with single meals, with contents of 25% to 81% of energy from protein in general or from specific proteins, while subsequent energy intake reduction was significant.
Whenever I feel full I tend to stop eating. Listen to your body and allow protein to give you the indicator you need to feel fuller faster.
Don’t forget to grab the BlenderBottle Classic Loop Top Shaker Bottle. This will make it quick and easy to get the protein into your body quickly.
Summary: 15 Health Benefits of Protein
My list of the 15 health benefits of protein only scratches the surface on what protein does for the body. Protein is necessary for many bodily functions and without it, our bodies would fall apart. From proteins ability to put on muscle mass, lose weight, fight disease, and improve the body, protein is one macronutrient that the body cannot do without.
If you need a more intricate list of high protein foods, check out my high protein food list here.