7 Reasons to Pump up the Protein in Your Diet ...

Protein should be an essential part of everyone's diet. Guest contributor Francis points exactly why protein is so important.

Protein is for athletes. Protein is for bodybuilders. Protein is for men. Somewhere along the way, protein powders became synonymous with greased-up six-packs on the covers of men’s fitness magazines, but protein is essential to a woman’s overall health and wellness — whether she’s an athlete or not.

Understanding your body’s need for protein is the first step toward educating yourself on this essential component of life (and looking and feeling good). Once you know how it helps your health and fitness regime, you’ll be pro-protein in no time.

1. It’s an Essential Component of Your Body

Protein is an essential component of virtually every part of your body, including muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Your body is constantly breaking down and replacing proteins every second of the day. The proteins in the food you eat are converted into amino acids, which replace the lost proteins in your body.

Insufficient protein intake can give you brittle hair, skin problems such as dermatitis, muscle weakness, hormonal changes that affect metabolism, impaired immunity, and slower recovery from workouts. No thanks!

2. Protein Helps Build Lean Muscle

Many women associate protein intake with the rippling muscles of bodybuilders at the gym. They assume that if they use a protein supplement or increase the protein in their diets, they’ll soon begin to look like that, too. But females aren’t hardwired to build muscle that way (women’s levels of testosterone aren’t that high), so the muscle you gain is lean and healthy, not big and bulky.

3. Protein Helps Manage Weight

Protein has superpowers when it comes to weight management. Not only does it make you feel fuller longer, but it’s also a high-thermic food. This means even the act of breaking it down burns a lot of calories. Increasing your intake of lean-source proteins in meals or as snacks is a healthy way to include protein in your diet.

4. It Helps You Recover

Regular exercise increases muscle breakdown, so naturally, you’ll need more protein to rebuild those muscles. Using protein as a recovery agent can be very effective. All major performance gains happen during recovery, and actions that promote recovery, such as ensuring you’re getting enough protein, are crucial to achieving your fitness goals.

5. It Helps Sustain Activity

Protein needs vary based on age, gender, metabolism, and activity level. The more active you are, the more protein you need. The Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, and National Academies recommend women between the ages of 14 and 70 consume 46 grams of protein each day. A good rule of thumb is that 25 to 30 percent of your daily calories should come from protein. This way, you’ll be ready and energized for anything.

6. It’s Easy to Consume

Luckily, it’s easy to eat complete protein foods because protein can be found anywhere! Meat, seafood, milk, poultry, and eggs are all forms of protein and work well with incomplete protein foods (beans, whole grains, and nuts). If you’re concerned with calorie intake, stick to lean proteins such as skinless chicken breast, beef top sirloin, pork tenderloin, light turkey meat, and naturally lean fish and seafood.

7. It’s a Great Way to Start the Day

Breakfast is tempting to skip, especially when you’re busy and in a rush. But this meal is part of a healthy diet, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. Eating breakfast with protein helps you feel full until your next meal, and it’s a good way to get your metabolism working in the morning. Breakfast smoothies with protein powder, mini quiches with egg, or Greek yogurt are simple, healthy choices for a protein-packed breakfast.

Protein is essential for everyone — not just bodybuilders! It won’t make you bulk up, it can help you manage your weight, and it helps you recover from your active lifestyle. Starting today, prioritize protein in your meals. Your body will thank you!