DALLAS (CBS11) – Whether you want to lose weight or build muscle, the answer always seems to be “eat more protein.”
“Protein is very much an essential nutrient for tissue building and particular muscle building,” said Dr. Lona Sandon, who heads the Clinical Nutrition Department at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “We also use protein for antibodies to fight off things like the flu and other infections we might get.”
However, Dr. Sandon said the reason many people don’t see the health benefits of protein often has little to do with not eating enough.
“Most people do eat enough protein,” she said. “We don’t have a protein shortage in this country.”
Regardless of your health goals, to get the most out of protein here are the Top 5 things you need to know:
1. How much to eat – The average person needs a half of a gram of protein for every pound of weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need roughly 75 grams of protein a day. Dr. Sandon says some athletes may need a little more depending on their goals.
2. When to eat it – Research shows eating protein up to two hours after working out helps with muscle recovery, but don’t eat all your daily protein needs at once. Health experts say to get all the benefits of protein, spread out your intake throughout the day.
3. Not all protein is the same – There are two major kinds of proteins. Chicken, beef, eggs and dairy are all considered complete proteins, as they contain all nine essential amino acids. Protein found in grains, beans and nuts don’t have all the amino acids, which is why if you are getting your proteins from these foods, experts say make sure you eat a variety.
4. It can help with weight loss – Eating protein can assist in healthy weight loss because protein has been scientifically proven to reduce hunger and boost metabolism. However, don’t start eating a bunch of high-calorie protein bars thinking you’re going to get thin. It still comes down to burning more calories than you eat. Plus, Dr. Sandon said, “You don’t want to focus your whole diet on protein sources because we need more than just protein for a healthy body.”
5. You can eat too much – Your body can only absorb about 20 to 40 grams at one time. Any more is just a waste. Plus, if you consistently eat more protein than you need, you’ll likely gain weight, have an increased risk of kidney damage and studies show people on high-protein diets tend to have bad breath.
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