You know it builds muscle, is essential for recovery and is an imperative part of a healthy diet. But did you know it can improve your mood and help you sleep, too?
As a pharmacist, personal trainer and online coach, improving the health of my patients and clients is my priority.
But one of the biggest issues I find with a lot of my clients and customers is that that they do not consume nearly enough protein for their health or their goals.
Proteins are the primary building blocks of our bodies. They are used to build tissues like muscle, tendons, organs, and skin, as well as many other molecules that are essential to life such as hormones, enzymes, and various brain chemicals. Proteins are comprised of smaller molecules known as amino acids, 12 non-essential which our bodies produce, and nine essential amino acids which we must get from the food we eat.
Numerous studies have shown that a high protein diet has major benefits for fat loss, muscle gain, and metabolic health. Without enough diverse protein food sources in your diet, you risk becoming deficient in certain amino acids which can result in low energy, difficulty building lean muscle, low concentration and memory, unstable blood sugar levels and trouble maintaining or losing weight.
The importance of protein is significantly underestimated – in my experience dealing with clients, anyway – and these are some more reason to up your protein – that you might not be aware of.
1. Protein reduces your risk of high blood pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major cause of strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease. Based on recent study findings, increased protein intake may be recommended to patients with hypertension to help reduce blood pressure levels due to the high content of amino acids . Research studies also report that a high protein diet helps to lower serum insulin levels, preventing sodium retention and angiotensin activation which might reduce cardiovascular risk by lowering blood pressure. Researchers found strong evidence that those who consumed the highest amounts of amino acids had lower measures of blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
Other studies have also found that increasing your protein intake leads to reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and increases in HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
2. Protein reduces your risk of osteoporosis
There are many nutrients involved in building your bones and regulating their health. Of these, calcium and protein are essential to maintaining the cycle of bone resorption (break down) and bone formation. Protein makes up about one third of bone mass, and a diet that is deficient in either calcium or protein is associated with a loss of this mass, which can lead to osteoporosis and fractures. The amino acids from proteins are used to build bones, and by increasing your intake of protein in your diet, you can help to up-regulate the hormones that control bone metabolism and rebuilding. Dietary protein may also positively impact bone health by increasing muscle mass, and by increasing calcium absorption.
3. Protein can improve your mood and your sleep
Protein is a vital macronutrient when it comes to regulating your mood and brain function. Consuming an adequate amount of protein in your diet provides your body with the building blocks it requires to make enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters, which have a substantial impact on our state of mind and energy levels.
Glutamine is an amino acid which supplies energy to cells as well as suppressing the central nervous system resulting in improved concentration and stress coping mechanisms, as well as feelings of calmness and improved ability to fall asleep. The amino acid carnitine improves mood and cognition as well as memory function.
Dietary protein intake can also help to promote stable blood sugar levels which can help to prevent irritability, anxiety and mood changes.
Holly Vogt is a pharmacist, personal trainer and expert for Body Science.
If you are concerned about your health, book an appointment with your GP who will be able to advise a correct treatment plan.