Like many other people, I never realized the importance of incorporating protein into my diet. I spent a large chunk of my life eating the bare minimum of protein each day.
I used to wake up in the morning and load up on carbs, not even thinking about protein. Then I’d head off to lunch later and toss a bit of meat on my salad or in my wrap. By dinner, I would eat whatever I felt like–pasta, soup, salads–without giving any real thought to my protein intake.
And to make matters worse, I used to go to the gym each day and finish off my workout without a protein shake.
Unsurprisingly, I was sluggish throughout the day, I felt sore after every workout, and I was fatigued both physically and mentally on the daily-–no matter how much sleep I got the night before.
I knew something needed to change…I just wasn’t sure what.
But then I started to do some research, and I began to realize what my diet was missing: protein.
Below, I’ve gathered three reasons you need to get serious about your protein intake.
1. Protein Makes You Stronger
It is the building block of muscles. Without eating protein, your muscles cannot grow or maintain their strength and form. And if you’re physically active (which we all should be!) then it’s extremely important that you are getting enough protein. When you workout, your muscles rip and tear, and protein aids in helping to build and repair that muscle tissue.
Once I realized just how imperative it was to eat adequate amounts of protein, I started drinking protein shakes and/or eating protein bars after my workouts. This helped restore my muscles, and kept soreness at bay. I also started making some serious gains in the gym!
2. Protein helps to manage your weight
Protein helps you feel full, so it’s important to fill up on lean meats, or plant-based protein when eating, rather than filling up on carbs or fats. Protein takes longer to break down, which in turn stabilizes your blood sugar and requires your body to burn more calories while it digests food. This prevents over-eating, prevents spikes in blood glucose, and balances your energy levels.
Though I kept my exercise routine the same, when I started eating adequate amounts of protein, I started losing fat! My body’s fat percentage went down and my lean muscle percentage went up, which is exactly what we should all be aiming for.
3. Protein promotes healthy brain function
It can be so easy to forget about that the fact that the food we eat determines how we will mentally perform throughout the day. Our brain requires a steady amount of amino acids from protein in order to keep our concentration, focus, and energy levels in check. Proteins are needed to make enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters that are vital for cognitive function.
Experts recommend eating 0.5g-1g of protein per lb of bodyweight per day. If you’re 120 pounds, you will need 60-120g grams of protein per day.
Eating meat and vegetables that are high in protein is an all-natural way to reach your daily limit. Supplement throughout the day and after working out with protein-filled snacks such as protein shakes, bars, and nuts. Remember, protein strengthens your muscles, keeps your bones strong, keeps your weight in check, and boosts your cognitive function.
Realizing your need for protein is the first step to living a longer, healthier life. You can incorporate protein into your day by eating lean meats and by snacking on high-protein foods such as Fit Joy Protein Bars. Fit Joy Bars contain 20 grams of protein–perfect for a post-workout supplement, a meal replacement, or an afternoon-pick-me-up.
Protein changed my life, and I can guarantee it will change yours as well.
Courtney Livingston is a Florida-born gal learning to live in East Asia. You can find travel tips and read about her daily adventures on her blog, CourtneyLivin.com. Make sure to check out her book, The Smart Girl's Guide to Surviving Her Twenties, for more tips on how to survive, and thrive, throughout your twenties.