This is the second part of my series on How to Start Eating Healthy! I hope you enjoyed Part 1 on Carbohydrates post. This week I want to talk about Proteins, what they are, types, their benefits, what time to eat them, and more. If you want to learn how to start eating healthy, then you need to learn the basics of each macronutrient (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and have a clear understanding on the role they play in our bodies. This will make you knowledgeable and allow you to make wise decision on how to start eating healthy for the rest of your life.
I will give you the most beneficial tips on a series of blog posts on to get you started today on your path to learning how to start eating healthy.
How to Start Eating Healthy: What are proteins and why they important?
They are the second most important and essential nutrient our bodies need. Proteins are the building blocks of everything that makes us; we can pretty much say, “We are walking proteins.” Not joking! Our cells, hormones, enzymes, tissues, organs, and entire organism are composed of proteins. Proteins are also the building blocks of DNA, so they play an essential role in our genetic code. You see how important they are?
What the benefits of proteins?
Here is a list of the benefits of proteins:
- Needed to maintain good health.
- Proteins are important for structural purposes.
- 1 gram = 4 Calories/gram
- They are very versatile! Helps our bodies with growing, repairing or replacing tissue.
- Proteins are composed of 20 different main amino acids (essential and nonessential amino acids). Therefore, when we eat proteins our digestive system break them down into amino acids, which are absorbed in the bloodstream.
- Help regulate hormone secretion.
- Some proteins help regulate insulin in the blood, stabilizing blood sugar.
- They help maintain an acid-base PH balance of the blood and body fluids. If blood is too acidic (acidosis) or to basis (alkalosis) it can lead to coma or even death.
- Help maintain the body’s water balance.
- Act as transporters by carrying body fluids, nutrients and other molecules in the body.
- Needed to carry oxygen (via hemoglobin) through our body.
- If you are trying to build muscle, this is the most fundamental source of food you need to eat to build muscle!
- Needed for movement (muscle contraction).
- When we don’t eat enough carbohydrates to provide glucose for energy, our bodies seek proteins to obtain energy. If this happens we will lose lean body tissue, therefore lose muscle. If you are trying to build muscle, you need to eat both pre & post workout (proteins + carbohydrates).
- Without proteins our muscles won’t grow and recover after workouts. Therefore they are needed for muscle tissue repair!
- Help with hair and fingernail growth and skincare
What are different types of proteins?
Proteins are divided in two types, animal proteins and plant proteins.
- Animal Proteins
- Proteins from animal sources
- Lean meats: chicken, turkey, white fish, wild caught fish, salmon, red meats, shrimp.
- Bone broth, collagen, beef gelatin, gelatin
- Eggs, low-fat cheese, ricotta cheese, greek yogurt, cottage cheese
- Whey protein, egg white protein, beef protein.
- Plant Proteins
- Proteins from plant sources
- Legumes, whole grains, soy,
- Veggies: broccoli, kale, mushrooms, spinach, collard greens, corn, mustard greens, parsley, edamame, peas, asparagus, soybeans (although I’d limit on the use of soy).
- Spirulina, moringa, maca powder
- Seeds (seed butters), sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp, flax, sesame, hemp powder/seeds.
- Nuts (nut butters), almonds, Brazilian nuts, peanuts, cashews
- Protein powders: pea protein, plant based protein, brown rice protein, soy protein.
What are amino acids?
Proteins are composed of 20 different main amino acids (essential and nonessential amino acids). Therefore, when we eat proteins our digestive system break them down into amino acids, which are absorbed in the bloodstream.
There are twenty amino acids commonly found in animal-based proteins and eight of these are considered to be essential since the body cannot produce them on its own. These essential amino acids must be obtained through the diet or supplementation. The other twelve amino acids are nonessential and conditionally nonessential and these are capable of being produced by the body. They can also be supplemented with food and supplements. When you are under stress or sick, your body is not able to make some nonessential amino acids, therefore these are classified as conditionally nonessential.
- Essential Amino Acids
- Meaning: the body cannot produce these amino acids on its own.
- Valine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and tryptophan and histidine. Histidine is only essential for infants/babies, not adults.
- Nonessential Amino Acids
- Conditionally Nonessential Amino Acids
- Meaning: when you are under significant stress, sick or going through a rough time, your body may not be able to produce enough of these amino acids to meet your needs, therefore you might want to supplement with diet.
- Arginine, glutamine, tyrosine, cysteine, glycine, proline, serine and ornithine
- Nonessential Amino Acids
- Meaning: the body can make these amino acids on its own.
- Alanine, asparagine and aspartate — are nonessential.
- Conditionally Nonessential Amino Acids
Will Proteins make me gain weight?
If you are trying to lose weight, a diet high in protein will benefit you. Eating protein helps you control hunger too. You want to select lean protein sources as I listed above into your diet. Avoid meat cuts that are high in fat as calories still matter. Choose meat cuts that end in “loin” for red meats, chicken breast, turkey breast, eggs, legumes, nuts (see list above)
What time should I consume proteins?
You want to consume protein in each of your meals and eat 5-6 meals, every 2.5-3.5 hours. You can do a Protein Shake click link for recipes. You want to eat protein in all your meals, but especially around your workouts. For example you need to eat carbohydrates + protein as a preworkout and post-workout, this will allow the carbs to be digested and processed as a fuel, while using a higher percentage of protein for repair and growth.
If you are starving toward the end of the evening or night, then choose a snack with protein. Stay away from carbohydrates at night if you are trying to lose weight. Do snacks like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, nut butters or a protein shake with some almonds.
How much protein to take to build muscle?
It honestly varies on how much protein is required depending on your body time and level of physical activity. Follow this formula to calculate how much protein to eat depending on your activity level or Access Protein Calculator here.
Body Weight (lbs) x Protein Amount Factor
Choose one of the following protein amount factors to plug into the formula.
- .5 – no sports or training
- .6 – jogger or light fitness training
- .7 – moderate training, 3x per week
- .8 – moderate daily weight training or aerobics
- .9 – heavy weight training
- 1.0 – heavy weight training daily
- 1.5 – heavy weight training daily, plus cardio 3x per week
(Protein factor information taken from article from bodybulding.com)
I stick to 1g of body weight for my protein amount and it has worked pretty good. If I’m bulking, I increase to 1.5g per 1 lb of body weight. So, right now I’m 130 lbs x 1 g Protein = 130 grams/daily. It I want to lean out more, then I will change the protein amount factor.
Let me know if you have any comments, questions on this topic! I’d love to hear your feedback.
- How much protein do you take?
- What’s your favorite protein supplement?
Check out these links to help you get started on a healthy lifestyle!
- How to Make Fitness Resolutions That Work
- 5 Tips to Start Working Out
- 7 Tips to Six-Pack Abs