Have you ever wondered why Doctors, Nutritionists, Fitness experts always recommend foods that are high in protein? Do you know that your muscles, hair, nails, skin, and eyes are all made of protein? So are the cells that make up your liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, nerves, brain and your sex glands. Next to water, protein is the largest substance in your body, to the extent that if all the water in your body is squeezed out, almost half of what is remaining would be protein. Yes, you are protein.
What is Protein?
If you ask a little child “what is protein?” He or she will readily tell you “protein is what we need to repair our worn-out tissues” or “we need protein to grow up properly’ hence, in a lay man’s definition, protein is what you must eat every day to make your body function optimally.
It is almost impossible to indulge in a weight loss program that does not include a high protein diet. And of course, a weight loss program must also include physical activities and so on.
So where can we get protein from? A lot of people today, especially mothers, often get confused when asked what foods are high in protein. In fact, some of us cannot confidently give 5 examples of foods that are high in protein. At most and very often, they will always tell you “is it not beans na?”
I’m sure some of us who went to the boarding house would remember that a day hardly passed without us having beans as an item on the menu for the day, under the guise that it was highly proteinous, and so “ … would help us grow better and taller.” As true as it may have sounded then, for the majority of us, the thought of beans alone, was bad news for that day. Not just because we didn’t like the taste, also we didn’t have enough varieties to choose our protein from.
I doubt if up to ten percent of the student population liked beans back then. As a matter of fact, what was common was that we would add a lot of sugar to the beans and combine it with soaked garri, (cassava flour) with an even higher dose of white sugar, to satisfy ourselves that, at least, we were eating protein.
Now, where can we get this thing called protein from, especially in our beloved country Nigeria?
Sources of Protein
For the purpose of simplicity, I would be dividing these proteins into groups, so we can identify them better. These groups are: meat sources, vegetable sources, dairy & egg sources, seafood sources, canned food sources, snacks and nuts sources.
1. The meat sources include: chicken, turkey, goat meat, cow meat, sheep (ram), pork
2. The vegetable sources include: soya beans, green peas, our regular white and brown beans, black beans
3. Dairy & egg sources include: yoghurt, eggs, cheese, milk, whey protein
4. Seafood Sources include: shrimps, octopus, fish (‘titus’, tilapia and many more.)
5. Canned food sources include: tuna, corned beef, sardine, sausages
6. Snacks and nuts: peanut butter, cashew, peanuts, almonds, ‘kilishi’
Why is Protein Essential for Weight Loss?
At one point in time or the other, either from an aerobics instructor, a nutritionist, probably on the radio or maybe even on television, I am sure a lot of us must have seen how protein is often referenced or highly regarded when it comes to this issue of burning fat or shedding some kilos. So why then is protein so important when it comes to fat burning?
First of all, amongst the three major macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, and fats) that constitute what we derive in our everyday meals, protein takes the longest time for our body to break down. This means that unlike carbohydrates and fats, which the body breaks down first, protein is not only broken down last but as a matter of fact, the body spends more time and energy breaking down protein. This means more calories are being burnt anytime the body has to break down and digest protein. Hence the more protein we consume, the more calories the body burns.
Protein helps us retain our lean muscle mass
For most women, we always talk about how we want our bodies to be firm, toned and even more curvaceous. But what often skips our minds is that having a toned, firm and curvaceous body is made up of not only a low-fat percentage but also a higher lean muscle mass. That’s right, muscle!
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for lean muscle in both men and women. So for those of us trying to burn fat, and build up our hips, or glutes (bum), or for our men trying to burn fat and build lean muscle in their Pecs (chest) or arms, we must not forget that protein plays a very important role, in both the burning of fat and building of lean muscle.
Protein keeps us feeling full and satisfied, hence reducing hunger.
This is because protein slows down digestion. It is almost impossible to embark on a weight loss program without dropping the number of calories one consumes in a day. This is usually the toughest part for most of us besides the working out aspect. So having the adequate amount of protein in our meals helps us to curb out hunger and feel fuller longer.
Clearly, we can all see why protein is very important in our daily diet, whether or not we are trying to burn fat or build lean muscle. More on protein and its importance will be talked on in future posts.
Thanks for reading
Hi, I am a compulsive optimist passionate about the woman being a blessing to her family and her immediate and intermediate environment in all ramifications. I am happily married to Kingsley Uranta and blessed with two children, Bob and King. By the way, I am 53 years old.