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Somewhere between a book written in 1939 that demonized eating meat and the current popularity of meatless diets, many people got the mistaken idea that we are healthier if we live almost entirely on fruits and vegetables. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
As we age, we need MORE protein to decrease muscle wasting. It is estimated that as we age, we need about 50% more to preserve muscle mass and strength. (1) Even if we eat healthy meals otherwise, protein intake is critical. Adequate protein also improves immune function and helps us heal from illness, surgeries or injuries. It is the critical building block of new tissue formation. Even in the treatment of skin breakdown in medical facilities, it is a known fact that protein is critical to body-wide rejuvenation and healing. Adequate intake is one of the tools utilized to expedite healing and wellness in clinical settings. Adequate protein is essential for healthy, smooth skin, healthy hair and nails. and shaping an aesthetically pleasing, athletic body.
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Timing Is Critical
Everyone who has been involved in strength training has heard that we should eat protein after lifting weights to maximize our “gains”. The truth of the matter is that we need to spread our protein out evenly over three meals for optimum muscle synthesis. Consult your doctor to determine the amount of protein that you need in a day and spread it out over your day. David’s article, Protein Supplements , can also help you learn more about the amount of protein that you might need in a day. Avoid the tendency that busy people have to go all day without eating and binge in the evening. You are much more likely to eat too many carb-heavy calories and skimp on protein. If you eat all of your protein at once, you won’t get the maximum benefits that this wonder food has to offer. Adequate protein improves muscle, skin, hair and nails along with satisfying hunger better than other nutrients. Get the hunger control of adequate protein all day long by starting your day with about 1/3 of your daily protein allotment.
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Work It In!
Another reason to spread your protein out is that it’s easier to get enough when you eat a little all along. Since protein is filling, it’s almost impossible to get enough at one time. Eggs are a great protein source that can be eaten any time of day but are especially good for breakfast since they are quick and easy to fix. Greek yogurt is also a powerhouse of nutrition that requires NO cooking. Greek yogurt has almost twice the protein of regular yogurt. Choose plain, unflavored Greek yogurt and add your own 0-calorie sweeteners, fruits, nuts or seeds. Water enhancers come in delightful flavors sure to please even a picky eater. One of our favorite flavors that rivals lemon pie is Mio Lemonade. If you like an Orange Creamsicle, add Tang water enhancer and a dash of vanilla. Mix nuts or seeds with sugar free pancake syrup for a Maple Nut Sundae. Greek yogurt is also full of bone strengthening calcium which makes your frame strong to carry all that muscle. Greek yogurt has about 14 grams of protein for 3/4 of a cup with 347 milligrams of calcium. That’s about 1/4 of the calcium you need in a day. Calcium also helps to regulate your metabolism to burn fat more efficiently.
Mid-Day Brain Fuel!
Protein is the answer for the notorious afternoon slump. Every time that I have ever experienced that let-down half-way through the afternoon, I could trace it back to a low-protein lunch. One of the absolute worst choices at lunch is pasta dishes that have little protein in proportion to the carbs. Almost all pasta dishes are made with refined carbohydrate pasta. Whole grain pastas are available but very few people eat them because they are different. Even then, the ratio of protein to carbohydrates is low. The average 1 cup serving of spaghetti with meat sauce has approximately 42 Total Grams of Carbs and a mere 17 Grams of protein. (2) By comparison, a chicken grilled chicken salad has 8 Total Grams of Carbs and a whopping 31 grams of healthy protein! (3) Even with Italian dressing the calories for the chicken salad are only about 300, so add MORE protein if you like! Add eggs, nuts, seeds and/or more chicken and be fueled for the entire afternoon.
Stay Satisfied All Night!
If you eat a low protein dinner, I can guarantee you that you will not sleep well. I know this from experience. Protein staves off hunger better than carbs. Although we need healthy carbohydrates, if you do not get enough protein to fill you up at dinner, you will be more prone to “night-eating”. Eating when you awaken during the night will cause more weight gain in most people because your circadian rhythms have turned your metabolism down at this time of the night so that you can rest. When you get up, go to the fridge and eat everything in sight, you’re not only piling in the calories when your body is less equipped to handle them, you have also disturbed your sleep. Disturbed sleep increases cortisol production which is linked to excess belly fat and insulin resistance. To help avoid night binges, eat a nutritious dinner based on adequate amounts of protein. Your brain and body will thank you. We are creatures of habit and if you get into the habit of eating when you awaken, you will start waking up during the night just to eat. Stay asleep better by going to bed with your hunger satisfied.
I well remember the days that there was a rule, “NO EATING BETWEEN MEALS!”. The truth is, if you get hungry, you have to have a healthy snack to avoid binge eating junk. This is an excellent time to squeeze in MORE PROTEIN! Nuts, seeds, string cheese, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and boiled eggs are all good sources. I never leave my house without a healthy snack in my car. Protein cookies and bars are also good sources of healthy, portable nutrition. Nowadays, you may find healthy snacks in a convenience store, but you may not. If you don’t have a nutritious snack with you and you venture into a store that doesn’t have anything appropriate, you are likely to settle for a less than healthy option. Be prepared to fend off the unhealthy barrage of convenience store sugar bombs by taking your healthy snacks with you.
Get ALL the Good Out of Life!
We have tremendous control over how we age and our state of health. Most sickness and dysfunction are caused by our habits. Although we will all die, we should be able to actually LIVE until we do! Obesity, COPD, Type 2 Diabetes and Stroke are all considered to be “Lifestyle Disease”. (4) They will all prevent you from enjoying your life to the end.
Getting enough protein to be satisfied with proper amounts of nutritious food to prevent poor nutrition and have the energy and presence of mind to enjoy your life is a simple thing.
Create Your Life.