When it comes to getting in shape and staying healthy, diet is just as important as exercise (if not more). A nutrient-rich diet will give you the energy you need to work out and get on with the rest of your day. Eating a balanced diet will help you lose weight. What you eat is also important if you’re looking to build muscle. In particular, eating protein will help you gain strength and build muscle mass.
How It Works
Simply eating more protein doesn’t mean you’ll gain muscle mass. You also need to exercise and weight train, as well as eat a nutritious and balanced diet with fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which aid and cause many of the reactions and processes in your body. When you exercise and lift weights, you create tiny micro tears in your muscles. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down and uses those amino acids to repair the tears. They surround and fill the tear, and make it bigger and stronger.
How Much Protein You Need
You want to make sure you’re eating the right amount of protein. Too little, and your body could take longer to build muscle. Eat too much and you could become dehydrated increase your risk of kidney stone, and end up gaining weight from fat, not muscle. Like anything, you need to find a balance and eat the right amount for you.
An average recommendation for someone who exercises regularly is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means that for 150 lb. person, they should be eating about 55 grams of protein per day. Athletes and people who work out a lot should eat even more.
How much protein you specifically need to eat every day will depend on your gender, current weight, height, and how much you work out. Women tend to need less than men. Hormone levels and body composition also play a role in how much you’ll need to bulk up.
If you really want to get it right, consult with a registered dietician or nutritionist to help you figure it out.
You can get protein from shakes, bars and some of these highly popular protein powders, but eating whole foods with naturally occurring nutrients is always going to be the best thing for your body. Here are some delicious ideas for protein rich snacks.
Eggs are great to eat any time of day, not just for breakfast. They contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to get through your diet.
Rice Cake and Peanut Butter
This is a great pre-workout snack. The rice cake will give you energy while the peanut butter will keep you full and provide protein.
Greek Yogurt and a Banana
Greek yogurt has more protein than normal yogurt thanks to the way it’s strained. Try a plain yogurt with a banana for some sweetness and potassium. Add honey if you need to cut the tartness of the yogurt more.
In addition to helping you build muscle, protein keeps you feeling full longer so you’re less likely to snack or cave in to unhealthy temptations. It also helps your body digest sugar more slowly and regulate the release of insulin over a longer period of time, giving you more lasting energy and preventing a big crash.