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Every couple of years a new trend or fad emerges from within the health and fitness industry. With the help of some creative advertising and the alluring promises of quick, sustainable weight loss, it’s enough to prompt even the most hardened skeptics to drop their guard, open their wallets and hop on the bandwagon along with millions of other overweight adults, all searching for a healthy solution to their inactive lifestyle.
It’s not until months or even years later, once science finds flaws in the reasoning and logic backing these products and programs that we recognize their shortcomings.
Remember Suzanne Somer’s Thigh Master? the Shake Weight? or how about the Ab Coaster?- In hindsight they all seem a bit silly and it’s hard to grasp there ever was a time where we believed in their effectiveness, yet these products have all earned millions of dollars in profit and have served customers worldwide.
And let’s not forget about the overwhelming popularity of certain diet plans that has attracted a number of dieters to not only follow arbitrary rules but also to put their own health in danger all for the hopes of losing weight faster and easier than ever before!
There’s been the Blood-Type Diet, The 5-Bite Diet, The 17-Day Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, The Tapeworm Diet and the ever-so popular Werewolf Diet- just to name a few!
It’s no wonder we are so confused on proper nutrition and fitness protocols! Heck, even the so-call “experts” can’t seem to agree on what’s right, what’s best, what works and what doesn’t…
If there’s one thing we can’t dispute, however, it’s science! For years, PROTEIN has proven itself as an important factor in any weight loss program; however, it hasn’t been until just recently that an increasing amount of research is going into highlighting (the often overlooked) importance of protein, especially, in the female diet.
Many women shy away from consuming enough protein out of fear while others avoid it altogether as they are simply uniformed of its important benefits.
So let’s set the record straight once and for all!
The following guide was created to walk you step-by-step through everything you need to know about using protein to reach your fitness goals! We’ll go over the basics and even talk about the myths that you should never believe…
Do women need protein?
Whether you are male, female, sedentary, active, young, or old- your body requires protein to function! That’s because each and every cell within your body has at least some protein in it. In fact, with the exception of water, protein is the most abundant substance found inside the human body- and it’s in charge of some pretty important stuff too!
For instance, protein regulates the repair and maintenance of many of the tissues in our bodies. Hair, skin, nails, eyes, muscles & organs- Yep, you guessed it, they are all made from protein (and require a continuous supply for maintenance)!
And when it comes to fighting disease, protein helps build a pretty strong defense. You see, protein works to strengthen your body’s cells against infection from bacteria and viruses, giving your body the boost to its immune system that it deserves!
Not to mention, protein is also involved in the creation and regulation of many of the body’s hormones and enzymes- two substances that have an effect on much larger systems of the body. Just think how much worse off we’d be if we didn’t have insulin (a small protein) to regulate our blood sugar or digestive enzymes (more proteins) to break down large carbohydrate and fat molecules into smaller molecules our bodies can handle.
How much protein do I need and where do I get it?
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to determine how much protein is adequate for each every individual. Every body is different and no two bodies have the same nutritional requirements. The amount of protein your body needs will be shaped by many factors, including your gender, age, activity level, physique goals and so on.
That being said, fitness professionals do recommend as a general starting point that women consume between 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Aim for the higher end, especially if you are very active- your body will need the fuel!
For women looking to sculpt lean muscle, that number may need to be bumped up even higher! And for those looking to lose weight- don’t necessarily think that you belong on the low end of the spectrum (more about that down below, so keep reading!).
As for acquiring protein, there’s a number of sources easily available for your consumption. The most complete proteins come from animal products- think lean meats, poultry, fish & milk. These foods contain all 9 of the essential amino acids our bodies need yet cannot produce on our own.
Other sources like nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetables are incomplete; however, not necessarily inferior- they just require additional sources to ensure the body receives those 9 essential amino acids as mentioned earlier. Pair together rice & beans or hummus & whole-wheat pitas and you’re good to go!
And of course, their exists an entire world of protein powders at your disposal to help fill in any nutritional gaps that may be present in your diet. Keep in mind that protein powders are especially convenient for dieters as they are concentrated and tend to leave out the carbs & fats as found in whole foods (think fewer calories). With all of this there is literally no excuse for not meeting your protein intake goals!
What’s so great about protein that it will help me to lose weight?
The answer to this is truly two-fold. High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them. They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. The cumulative effect has obvious benefits for anyone who is watching her weight.
What’s more, protein is what preserves and maintains lean muscle mass, the ultimate fat-burning machine! While scientists still have yet to agree on just how many more calories muscle burns than fat, research has conclusively found that muscle does in fact boost one’s resting metabolic rate!
Do keep in mind though that best results are achieved when you spread your protein intake out over the entire day. That means starting your day with 20-25 grams of protein (roughly a palm-sized portion) with breakfast and continuing each meal thereafter with a similar sized portion. Check-out these breakfast favorites, High-Protein Blueberry Muffins and Spinach Artichoke Egg Bake, for some ideas to get started!
Myth: Will protein make me fat?
Let me just start off by saying there is NO food on this planet that will inherently make you fat! You read that right, there is NO specific food that will cause you to pack on the pounds!
The build-up of fat on the body is more closely related to volume of food consumed. When you feed your body an excess of calories (no matter how “good” those calories may be), the body has no choice but to store it as fat.
Don’t let be a reason to skimp on your diet though! Food is fuel and your body needs fuel in order to function properly- even when you are trying to lose weight! It’s the type of fuel, however that matters most. Do recognize that weight loss is not purely fat loss; weight loss includes fat, muscle, and a tiny bit of bone. So to lose more fat and less muscle, you’ll actually need to consume more protein. Hence when cutting calories, women actually need more protein, not less!
Keep jerky, hard-boiled eggs, roasted soy nuts, and protein powder handy for those convenient on-the-go snacks that will keep you satisfied and also on track!
Myth: Will it make me bulk up like those male bodybuilders?
I bet the first image that popped into your mind after reading protein was a group of male bodybuilders slinging back protein shakes in their shaker bottles after a grueling workout in the gym…
Am I right?
There’s no denying that much of the popularity surrounding protein piggybacked on the increasing interest in body building and physique competitions over the years. And it’s for good reason! You simply cannot have one without the other.
However, what most people fail to recognize is that it takes years of demanding resistance training, coupled with proper nutrition and a bit of genetics to pack on the muscle. Even with those three factors in play, women still will not (not to mention, physically can NOT) grow to the same size as men, for they lack the adequate amount of testosterone in their bodies to do so.
The truth is women produce a mere fraction of the testosterone (the natural muscle-building hormone) that men do. Without the use of steroids or other figure-enhancing substances, women are incapable of naturally putting on the same bulky muscle as men!
What women can achieve, however, is a lean and sexy muscle that creates a toned physique much like Jamie Eason, Nicole Wilkins or even Jennifer Nicole Lee!
Myth: Is too much protein bad for me?
We all hear it, too much of a good thing is rarely a good thing. It’s true that our bodies can only utilize a certain amount of protein in any given day, and like vitamins, our bodies cannot absorb, use, or store an unlimited amount of protein (though I wish they did!).
So what happens when we consume more protein than we need? The short answer: not much. Researchers confirm that as of now there is no evidence that heightened protein intakes will have adverse effects in healthy individuals. Our bodies simply eliminate the unused protein.
Too much protein need not be a worry though. The vast majority of individuals in today’s society consume far below the appropriate recommended daily intake.
Ready to boost your own protein intake?
Well now that we’ve busted the myths about protein, cracked the code of how much you need, and explored the best ways to get plenty of it into your everyday diet, you’re ready to start recovering faster, burning fat, and getting super toned!
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P.S. If you’d like more information on supplementing your dietary needs, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Supplements or if you’re looking to save money on all things healthy, check out my Top 25 Tips to Living Healthy on a Tight Budget.
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