Do This to Avoid “protein Hunger”
The protein is great. Our bodies are mostly made up of protein, and if you’re into strength training, I bet you already know that getting enough protein is important for building muscle. But what if you just want to be healthy in general? What if you don’t even care about your health but want to avoid overeating? Protein is important to you too.
A new study has identified a lack of protein as a potential cause of overeating. His results support an existing concept called the “protein leverage hypothesis”. This is the idea that we will eat until we get enough protein, and so if our diet consists of low protein foods, we may end up eating a lot of food and therefore a lot of calories, just to get enough. protein. Sometimes people refer to this as “protein starvation”.
Why protein is important
Our body needs more than just protein to build new muscle tissue. We also need protein to heal and repair damage. Our bodies are constantly breaking down and rebuilding tissues, and we also need protein for this task. Protein is also the building block for enzymes, which do everything from digesting food to detoxifying chemicals in our liver and helping with blood clotting. Many hormones are made up of protein; the receptors that receive hormonal messages are also made up of protein.
Therefore, we need a steady supply of protein just to keep our body functioning. And if we’re exercising – which is important for a healthy body – we need protein to support that. Without enough protein, we can lose muscle mass over time. Muscle loss is one of the dangers of aging, but we can reverse it with strength training and, yes, enough protein.
And if the protein leverage hypothesis is correct, we also need protein to keep us from overeating.
Put it all together and it’s worth making sure you have enough protein in your diet. As a minimum, we need 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (thus 72 grams for a 200-pound person). Here we ran the numbers for various body sizes and activity levels .
“Healthy” foods are often low in protein
If you’ve heard that the average American eats “too much” protein, take a moment. It is true that on average we eat more than the minimum requirement of 0.36 grams per pound. But the minimum requirements are low; this should be the amount that will save you from protein deficiency. Athletes will eat more, up to 1 gram per pound of body weight. Most of us should be somewhere between these numbers, especially if we are active. And protein isn’t something where “too much” is bad, so it’s better to err on the side of getting more than the recommended amount rather than less.
So what happens when we decide we want to eat healthy food? Chances are, if you’re on a diet, some of the foods you cut out are good sources of protein: hamburgers, cheese, fatty red meats, processed meats like hot dogs, and deli meats.
Maybe you replace the burgers with chicken breast, which should be good in terms of protein, but then you also eat smaller portions. A Big Mac contains 26 grams of protein in these two little patties; This American Heart Association-certified chicken dish is only 14 grams. If you prefer plant foods instead, they tend to be even lower in protein. A salad with dressing is usually protein- free , unless you add something like chicken, cheese, or nuts, and a small amount of cheese or nuts usually doesn’t have much protein.
The amount of protein you need when you eat in a calorie deficit is actually the same, or perhaps more , than when you’re not trying to lose weight. It’s okay if you don’t feel like eating a Big Mac, but a suitable low-calorie replacement for this meal would be something that still gives you 26 grams of protein, but with fewer calories from fat and carbs.
What foods are rich in protein?
To help you navigate this issue, let’s talk about which foods are rich in protein, and which ones seem to be, but in fact they are not.
Foods that are high in protein but low in calories include:
- Chicken breasts and thighs
- Ground beef, especially lean mixes like 90/10
- greek yogurt or skyr
- Whey powder and other protein powders
- Fish (depending on how oily it is)
- Tofu and tempeh
- Beans and lentils, although they contain a significant portion of carbohydrates, depending on the type of beans and how they are prepared, can easily be included in either of our two lists.
Foods that may not contain as much protein as you think:
- Eggs have 6 grams of protein; it adds up, sure, but an egg isn’t a protein bomb.
- Products that have the word “protein” on the label are usually quite low in protein . A protein muffin may contain more protein than a regular muffin, but none of them actually contain as much protein.
- Quinoa has more complete proteins than other foods in this category, but it’s not rich in protein on its own. Quinoa contains more protein than rice, but about the same amount as pasta or wheat bread .
- Peanut butter has more protein than, say, butter itself. But the thin smear you spread on toast will only add a few grams to your daily intake.
These are all still good foods, but don’t confuse a two-egg omelet with a meal that will allow you to exceed your daily protein requirement. The 12 grams of protein in this omelette is much less than the 27 grams in a small chicken breast.
Especially if you’re trying to eat healthy, it’s worth reviewing the nutrition information for your typical daily meals and seeing how your protein intake increases. And if you need ideas, we have a collection of cheap, easy high protein meals .