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You hear so much about protein nowadays. It seems like every health product is full of it – but should you be interested in protein? Is plant-based protein better? How much should everyone get? Thankfully, science shows us that there are a few things about protein intake that are true for almost everyone. Let’s take a look at what they are.

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It’s really important to get protein right

Protein, carbs, and fats are the three main macronutrients. The human body uses each of them differently and they are all important. But science shows us that getting protein right might be more important than the other two. That’s because protein can be a significant player in weight wellness. Here is how it can help.

Ramen with protein
Tempeh is a great source of protein. © Profimedia

Protein makes it easier to eat less

Scientific research shows that protein helps you eat less without feeling so hungry. That’s because eating protein stimulates the release of satiety hormones in the gut. Meals that include more protein help you feel full longer, which is the easiest way to naturally eat less. And research shows the effect can be significant. If you double your protein intake, you could spontaneously consume 400 fewer calories per day. That’s almost as much as 2 chocolate bars fewer every single day!

Protein helps you build and maintain muscle

If you eat less protein than you should and fewer calories too, your body will quickly turn to your own muscle mass to break down that protein to produce immune cells, enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters necessary for immediate survival. That’s why it’s really important to get enough if you want to protect your muscle mass.

Almonds
If you don’t get enough of protein, your body will remind you through an ever-increasing hunger.

But you could do even better than just cover the minimum necessary protein intake. Diets rich in protein are great for muscle synthesis, which is especially important for those looking to put on muscle, improve body composition or get stronger. A review of 38 studies suggests that when people train hard eating more protein boosts their results, helping them gain more muscle.

What does this mean for you?

If you want to improve your body composition and maintain a healthy weight, protein is your friend. It will help keep hunger away and your muscles protected. The right protein intake will be different for everyone depending on age, gender, and goals. But if you want to get the benefits of higher protein intake as an active athlete, you should aim for a lot more than the minimum recommended 0,8 g of protein per 1 kg of body weight per day.

Active cyclists should eat between 1,2-1,7 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. That means about 85-120 g of protein per day if your weight is 70 kg. Plus, athletes who are older than 50 should focus on protein intakes that are even higher, closer to 1,7-2 g per kg per day.

Next up in 5 Diet Tips That Work for Everyone Series series