Blog Header Image

Heather Benek


June 20, 2024

Putting the PRO in Protein

Protein is the literal building blocks of your body and can make or break everything from your cognitive function to recovery after a hard workout, injury, or surgery. This article will discuss four key functions of protein and offer guidelines around creating a protein plan that works for you. First, more about what protein can do for you.

TLDR - CLICK HERE to download the Protein PRO Tips

Increases Fat loss
Protein stabilizes blood sugar, this is beneficial for a myriad of reasons, check out this blog for more info. Adequate protein intake significantly increases feeling satiated after your meals. Remember, food is fuel. It is ideal to eat to fuel your current level of activity and reduce excess.  It’s okay to eat for pleasure, and it is essential to be clear about the impact your food choices have on your body. If you’re not sure what foods serve you best or have questions about navigating food choices, schedule a free nutrition consultation and we can find answers and solutions together. High protein intake supports metabolic switching, which is your body’s ability to switch back and forth from a sugar burning system to a fat burning system, this is key for weight loss among other benefits. Additionally, increased protein intake helps reduce sugar cravings, thank you protein!

Builds Muscle
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscles, it is the amino acids found in protein that make this repair and development possible. High protein diets are amazing for most people, especially those looking to gain muscle, lose body fat, or older adults as this is a time in life when muscle mass unfortunately decreases. A decline in muscle mass has been shown to correlate with poor health outcomes. A high protein diet can help slow or prevent the loss of muscle as one ages. Bear in mind, it takes about 30 grams of protein for your body to have an amino acid response that initiates muscle production, aim for at least 30 grams of protein per meal. On the flip side, your body can’t make use of more than 40-50 grams of protein per meal depending on your body size. Finding your sweet spot with protein intake per sitting is key!

Improves brain function
Low protein diets are associated with low neurotransmitter production (chemicals that support mood, calmness, clear thinking). By increasing your protein intake your body has the resources it needs to make neurotransmitters. Additionally, research shows that those with a high protein diet perform better in cognitive testing than those on a low protein diet. Fun fact: daily intake of blueberries and/or omega 3 (found in flax and walnuts) also support cognitive function!

Improves skin health
Protein supports skin elasticity, reduces signs of aging, and increases skin smoothness. Collagen is a key player here. Grass fed beef, lamb, grass fed dairy, are beneficial and they have omega 3,6, and 9. Wild fish for vitamin D. Fatty acids, amino acids. Free range poultry, triptofan, legumes, lentils (rich in leucine, getting enough opens sensors for other amino acids, chickpeas. Organic Tofu, photo estrogenes, especially helpful post menopause

Greek yogurt and raw nuts for enzymes to help break it down? Egg has lucine too.

Now you know the benefits of protein, here is general guidance to create a protein plan that works for you.

How much protein should I eat?
General guidelines for protein intake is .8 to 1.2 times your goal body weight in ounces. For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs could aim for 120-180 grams of protein per day. 150 x .8 = 120, thus, aim to have 120 grams of protein each day. OR 150 x 1.2 = 180, aim for 180 grams of protein per day. It takes about 2.5 hrs for your body to digest and process a meal, so plan your meals and snacks accordingly.

I suggest planning out your meals, meal prepping, and having a protein goal per meal to make hitting your protein goal as easy as possible. If you’re not able to plan, prep, and have a protein goal per meal, choose one and start there. These are general guidelines, your body may have needs outside of these guidelines, myself and the staff at Pittsburgh Fit are all glad to support you in finding what serves you best around protein intake, come and talk with us! Additionally, if you have kidney issues, a high protein diet may not be right for you so consult with your doctor.

Why does my water intake matter with a high protein diet?

When you take on a protein goal, use habit pairing and offer your protein intake the buddy of water. The amino acids in protein have nitrogen and the body uses water to flush nitrogen out of your system, if you don’t consume enough water you’re more likely to experience dehydration and kidney strain. A general rule of thumb to work from is half your body weight in ounces of water. If someone weighs 150 lbs, their water goal could be around 75 oz of water daily, although water needs vary depending on activity, diet, health, climate etc.

Primary resource:

Continue reading