A constant supply of protein keeps a variety of bodily functions running. Proteins are not like carbohydrates, which are stored in the body as fat or other nutrients that the body produces from various food sources. The only place protein is stored is in muscle tissue and almost every cell in your body. If your protein levels are too low, the body will steal these essential amino acids from the muscles and tissues it is trying to strengthen.
In addition to muscle loss, other symptoms of too little protein in your diet include fatigue and a general feeling of lethargy. This weakened state can compromise both your mental and physical abilities and your overall performance will suffer. A regular supply of protein, with each meal, helps supply the building blocks of amino acids to support muscle and connective tissue growth. These are essential elements to maintain the motor functions of the body.
Beyond its contribution to physical strength, protein helps regulate hormones and blood sugar. The result is a greater mental focus and a greater ability to recover from stress. One of those stresses is fluid loss due to physical activity. If you consume enough fluids, protein helps ensure that fluids reach all the necessary parts of the body to continue to function. Proteins also help ensure that cells don’t retain too much fluid. Maintaining fluid levels supports nerve function, which helps regulate the body and control things like muscle contraction.
Because your body consumes the protein you eat, it must maintain a constant supply. This means that it doesn’t help to load up on protein for breakfast and then avoid it for the rest of the day. Too much protein in one sitting is more than your body can absorb and will pass. Then when mid-afternoon rolls around, you’ll start to feel fatigued as your body starts robbing your muscles of amino acids.
If you get to that point, the best solution is to eat a handful of raw almonds or walnuts, or a slice of cheese. Stay away from that candy bar in the vending machine. All that sugar plus fatigue will cause an insulin rush and make fatigue worse. Then insulin will make you hungry and you will be challenged to eat a healthy diet at dinner time. Similarly, if you exercise during the day; be sure to eat some protein shortly after the session ends. This will help restore protein to your muscles, keep hormones in balance, and help rehydrate your body while drinking water.
Many sources of protein are found in many animal foods, including fish, beef, lamb, chicken, and eggs. A whole protein source is one that includes many of the essential amino acids that the body needs. Also, dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and whey protein are good sources of whole grain protein. Yogurt and some cheeses have the added benefit of supplying much-needed beneficial bacteria to aid digestion and support the immune system. If you prefer plant-based protein, a good source is beans and a variety of nuts and seeds. These foods also add fiber to your system and can reduce protein absorption, so get in the habit of adding sunflower seeds, almonds, and other protein snacks to your regular diet.