While many fad diets have changed over the years, nutritionists and personal trainers always seem to offer the same advice: include more protein in your diet! Protein-rich diets have been shown to help with weight loss; as a result, they're often paired with an active and healthy lifestyle to boost fitness goals.
While protein is essential for the growth and repair of cell tissues and muscles, including too much protein in your diet could actually do your body more harm than good. However, there’s a way to balance the benefits of protein without having to deal with the negative consequences.
The Benefits of Protein-Packed Diets
We know that protein is good for us, but do we know exactly why? For those who aren't in the know, let’s break it down. Protein promotes muscle building because it provides your body with amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscles. By consuming adequate amounts of protein, you encourage your body to preserve your muscle when you work out, which helps you burn fat instead.
Many people looking to lose weight often rely more on protein-rich foods to complement their active lifestyle. Protein-rich foods spend more time in your stomach, leaving you feeling more full and less likely to get hungry in a few hours. For example, eating a serving of beans, chickpeas or lentils can increase the sensation of fullness and lead to better weight management.
When Is Protein Too Much?
If you’re concerned that you’re consuming too much protein, it’s time to look at your eating habits. You may find that you're actually gaining weight because you're including more protein in your diet without cutting out other calories. You might also be gaining weight because you're exceeding the amount of protein that your body can use. Excess protein is either excreted or stored as fat in the body.
Another issue is that protein-rich diets can lead to dehydration—your body has to use more water to flush out the excess protein. If you don't consume enough water, you could experience dizziness, fatigue and heart palpitations, all of which can worsen when you work out.
Both of these issues can easily be solved by reassessing your diet and balancing your intake of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. Above all else, you should make sure to drink lots of water.
Finding the Best Sources of Protein
In order to balance the amount of protein in your daily diet, you need to know the best sources for your body. Lean meat protein, which includes chicken breast and turkey, is always your best option, but ditch the skin as it contains saturated fats. Protein isn't just found in meat, though; you can opt for other food sources such as eggs, tofu, beans and peanut butter.
Remember: you want protein to make up about 10–35% of your daily calorie intake. As you're including more protein in your diet, be sure to add up your overall calorie intake so you avoid gaining weight rather than losing it. And don't forget to stay hydrated, especially if you're doing cardio-heavy workouts.
By keeping track of what you’re eating and how much protein you’re consuming, you can reap the benefits of protein without going overboard. This macronutrient is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, but it’s important to remember that it shouldn't make up your entire diet. Maintain a balance between protein-rich foods and sources from other food groups to keep your fitness goals on the right path.