With so much conflicting nutrition advice out there, it can be difficult to know where to begin with reaching your health goals. Carbs and fat have a lot of controversy around them, but almost everyone agrees that protein has a lot of benefits for most people.
Increasing your protein is great for most people. It's even more advantageous for anyone who is active and those looking to lose weight. The only group that should be cautious about protein are those with current kidney or liver functions. If you fall into one of those groups, you may want to check with your doctor first.
So, let's dive into five benefits to adding more protein to your diet. And stay tuned to the end as we briefly cover what kind of protein you should focus on to get the best results!
Benefit 1: Build and Keep That Muscle
This is probably one of the most well-known benefit of adding more protein to your diet. Results might not show overnight, but studies show that if you keep with it, it will enhance your gains and muscle growth. It can also accelerate gains in aerobic and anaerobic power.
Not only does it help you build muscle, it helps you keep it. High protein diets can help make sure your weight loss comes from where you want it, sparing lean muscle mass.
Benefit 2: Promotes Weight Management
Ever gotten full on drinking a glass of milk? Protein makes you feel more food with less food. This is because it reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin. It also boosts peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full.
This hunger-busting benefit is so powerful, it might make you lose weight without trying hard! In one study, increasing protein caused people to reduce calories without intentionally restrict their diet. The higher-protein made them less hungry, so they consumed, in some cases, hundreds of calories less just by increasing protein.
Benefit 3: Lower Your Blood Pressure
Did you know that adding protein to your diet may lower your blood pressure? Researchers found that those who had higher protein diets had a 40% lower risk of developing high blood pressure. That's great news for anyone at risk! That benefit may be even better if you make it a dairy-based protein. Studies show dairy proteins contain compounds that act as natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which is a major class of blood pressure medication.
Benefit 4: Improves Glucose Control
Diabetes and insulin resistance is a common concern for many people. Research shows that increasing protein in your diet may help improve glucose control. In one study, a high protein diet resulted in a 40% decrease in the mean 24 hour glucose response. It also found that fasting glucose improved. This decrease kept getting better as the rate of change over time was also significantly greater after a high protein diet versus a control diet.
Benefit 5: Increases Calcium Absorption
Great news for bone health! A higher protein diet, according to researchers, can also increase intestinal calcium absorption. This connection between dietary protein and calcium absorption is significant. In fact, one study determined that a low-protein diet can be detrimental to skeletal health, demonstrating reduced bone density and increased rate of bone loss. The same study said that dietary protein intakes at or below 0.8 g/kg reduced calcium absorption enough to cause secondary hyperparathyroidism.
Beyond bone health, increasing dietary calcium can further boost any weight loss goals. Combined with caloric restriction (which higher protein diets may help you do without trying, as we learned from benefit 2), it can help you burn fat better, particularly from the trunk area.
The Right Kind of Protein
Not all protein is created equal, though eating a mix is a great idea. However, if you're looking for the most benefit, look no further than dairy!
Proteins that are more easily absorbed will have the most benefit. The essential amino acid profiles, plus the digestive and absorptive properties of dairy proteins, like whey and casein, are especially advantageous. That's because they help essential amino acids travel faster, better, and more evenly to the farthest reaches of your body.
If you're trying to lose weight, dairy protein is your friend, too! Researchers from the same study that looked at calcium absorption aiding in weight loss saw a substantially greater effect when it was dairy protein.
The two proteins commonly found in milk have a large body of research dedicated to their effectiveness. Whey, which is absorbed quickly, is a popular addition to weight loss and activity training, making you full quickly. Casein works more slowly and is key for muscle recovery. While there are powders, they often contain additives and are rarely as nutritionally complete as just reaching for a glass of milk.
PubMed | Calcium and Dairy Acceleration of Weight and Fat Loss During Energy Restriction in Obese Adults PubMed | The Role of Dairy Foods in Weight Management PubMed | The Effects of Protein Supplements on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Aerobic and Anaerobic Power in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review Boston University's The Brink | High Protein to Lower Blood Pressure PubMed | An Increase in Dietary Protein Improves the Blood Glucose Response in Persons with Type 2 Diabetes PubMed | Dietary Protein, Calcium Metabolism, and Skeletal Homeostasis Revisited