What’s the big deal with protein anyway?

Protein this, protein that…

It seems if you talk to anyone long enough and the conversation turns to health the word protein pops up almost immediately. Why do we all care about it so much and what does it really do for us? Here’s my version. The version I’ve lived.

Why is protein important and what does it do for your body?

Protein at its core helps your body repair tissue breakdown that happens daily, and maintain and build muscle. Without it everyday, in the amount your individual body needs, you will lose muscle over time because muscle is high maintenance tissue. Think of it as a car. If you don’t put gas in it it won’t run. It’s high maintenance. It needs your attention. If you ignore it and don’t fill up your tank you won’t go anywhere. Muscle works the same way. If you don’t feed it and support it it decreases. You want muscle to help you maintain a healthy body fat, body weight, metabolism, etc. If you’re strength training, and even if you’re not,  you can figure out the amount you need each day by talking to a Certified Personal Trainer. They’ll help you find out what your ideal daily protein for your individual goals may be.


In direct opposition to muscle is Fat!

Fat is a very low maintenance tissue. You don’t have to do anything to keep it around. Just like an old boyfriend you wish would stop coming around, you can ignore it all day long and it will just be there. In fact, fat can be difficult to lose if you don’t know how. This was me 5 years ago. I didn’t know how to lose weight without losing muscle. Once I was educated about protein and macros and how to influence my body to keep its muscle and lose its fat instead, my entire life changed. I didn’t just lose the body fat I’d wanted over the years, my body literally changed shape. Why? Because I influenced its shape by building muscle (what gives our body shape in addition to our skeletal system).

Before I started working with my trainer I didn’t know anything about eating for my body goals. How eating the right percentage of macronutrients each day in addition to my calorie goal would actually tell my body what was important and what wasn’t. Making sure I had the right amount of protein everyday told my body that muscle was important and pushed the extra calories I was burning to rid itself of fat instead. The carbs I was eating gave me the energy I needed to get through my workouts and help build muscle, and healthy fats supported my overall body function and vitamin absorption in my body.


When you support and build muscle your basal metabolic rate goes up!

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is how many calories you burn everyday just breathing. If you didn’t move all day and just breathed, that’s the number of calories you burn. The number is the calories you can eat each day without gaining weight, before adding in activity. It’s pretty cool. The amount of muscle you have directly effects that number. The more muscle you have the higher your BMR. Right now mine is 1,650. Because I have an activity tracker I know my average daily burn is about 2,650. I use this information to make informed decisions about my nutrition. I know if I insure my muscle (Lean Body Mass – LMB) stays or grows I could eat 2,650 calories each day (or more) on the average and maintain my current weight. Making sure I get my protein in is key to this!

Important ~ If you read nothing else, read this!

There are many misconceptions about metabolism that are out there. As we age we assume our metabolism slows because we start to see body fat where there wasn’t before and insist we haven’t changed anything we’ve been doing. Sometimes we just don’t realize we’ve changed a lot of our activity and nutritional habits because they happen slowly, over time. Kind of how weight creeps up on us through the years, slowly, over time. Your metabolism (BMR) doesn’t slow down unless you lose lean body mass. Are you eating enough protein? Are you strength training in addition to encourage muscle maintenance and growth? What has likely happened is you’re not keeping the same activity level you did when you were younger, your diet changed and you’re eating differently and not moving as much. Over time you lose muscle and gain more body fat. This can happen even when you look and stay relatively the same size. Your basal metabolic rate has dropped so you can’t eat what you used to without gaining weight, so you gain body fat.


What has paying attention to and increasing my protein intake done for me?

  1. I attained my lifelong health and fitness goals – I never have to diet again because I know how to eat for my goals. Protein is key to this because of how it directly influences muscle.
  2. I’m stronger – more muscle, more strength – I can do things now I wasn’t able to in the past. It motivates me to do more and try new things. That’s exciting!
  3. My body has more shape than ever – just look at pictures of me five years ago compared to today. That is a direct result of watching my macros and strength training.
  4. Keeps me satiated throughout the day – this is perhaps what I love the most about it. I used to be hungry all day long. I love food and I love to eat but my hunger was seemingly never ending before I became properly educated in nutrition. It is an amazing feeling to eat a meal and be satisfied for hours!


So what’s in the bowl?

I call it a Chicken, Veggie, Egg White Scramble and it’s delicious. My whole family loves it and so will yours.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/4 of an onion, diced (I like white but if I have red I use it)
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped up
  • 4 ounces grilled chicken, cut up (I marinade mine in whatever I have handy)
  • 1/2 ounce extra sharp cheddar cheese (Cabot Farms is BOMB)
  • 3/4 cup egg whites

Here’s what you do: Spray your largest frying pan with Pam and sauté the onions until soft and turning brown. Add in the broccoli, salt and pepper if you wish. Sauté a few minutes then add the chicken. Stir after a few minutes and then add the cheese. I like crispy cheese…there I said it. You can add it after the egg whites if you prefer but I add it here because the crispy adds a level of tang I really enjoy! Next add in the egg whites and scramble like you would ordinary eggs. You will be surprised how big this meal is and how filling for just under 400 calories! No lie. Transfer it to your largest dinner plate and enjoy! Macros are an amazing 398 calories, 65P/9C/9F

Looking for a way to make this into more meals? Add in a cup of rice or crisped up potatoes for added carbohydrates and bulk when you need them. What I love about this dish is it never gets boring. It’s always full of flavor and switching the ingredients, like using different veggies, makes it a new dish any day. If I want chinese food I just add in the rice and it tastes just like fried rice but with way better calories and macros!

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