Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eating Energy for Weight Loss: Proteins

We’ve all heard it, protein is important in our diet.  In addition to carbohydrates and fats, they provide energy to help our bodies function.

Proteins are used to build and repair body tissues and structures, as well as involvement in hormone and enzyme synthesis.  Proteins are comprised of amino acids linked together.  The sequence of the amino acids determines the protein’s function.  The body can make some of these amino acids; those are called nonessential amino acids, meaning they are not required from the diet.  Essential amino acids are not synthesized by the body and therefore required from the diet.  

You can find protein in several foods.  Meats, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and supplements all provide protein in some fashion.  When a single food provides all eight essential amino acids, it is considered to be a complete protein.  Many meats are considered complete proteins. 

Now, how much of your diet should consist of proteins? The answer, of course, is “it depends.”  Your individual goals will guide your protein intake.  Since this blog is about weight loss, we’ll focus on that.  Consuming protein is important during weight loss so your body has a supply of energy to use without breaking down muscle (which helps to burn fat).  The guideline for the general population is 0.8 g/kg of body weight, or about 15-30% of your caloric intake.  Protein has the same number of calories per gram (four) as carbohydrates, but has a tendency to be more filling than carbs.

A word about protein supplements: they can be helpful.  For weight loss, they can be used to supplement foods when foods aren’t available.  Those looking for weight loss can use them to occasionally replace food proteins.  There’s also the convenience factor.  When consumed after exercise, protein can enhance recovery by delivering amino acids to the blood to begin repair work on damaged muscle tissue.  Cost is an important consideration as well.

Keep in mind that too much protein, or creating an excess in your body, can have negative consequences.  The kidneys get overworked, dehydration is a strong possibility, and it has even been linked to heart disease.
Consuming protein is important for your body to function, and can help you with your weight loss agenda.  Keep a good balance of all the energy sources, and see the results on the scale.

See you at the gym!