A growing trend amongst all weight loss diets in the recent years has been that of increased protein intake. Protein makes up one of the three macronutrients that form our diet. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, increase stamina or just maintain good health, most experts will usually recommend increasing your protein consumption either through food or supplements. The amount of protein an individual should consume is highly subjective and relative to many factors like physical activity, lifestyle, ability to endure stress, genetic make-up, etc. Therefore, any mentioned recommended intake is only a reference point at best and should never be taken literally.
What is Protein?
Proteins is present all parts of our body: hair, skin, organs, bone, etc. It is made of amino acids that aid growth and repair. Amino acids are of two types; essential amino acids which the body cannot create on its own and non-essential amino acids which the body is capable of creating on its own. Therefore, to ensure proper functioning of the body, we need to consume food items that contain sufficient amounts of essential amino acids.
Plant v/s Animal Based Protein
Protein derived from animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy contain all the essential amino acids whereas almost all plant- based sources lack one or more essential amino acid. Further, the pattern of amino acids in animal cells is similar to that of human cells. However, the processing of food, both in animal and plant, changes the amount and relative proportion of some amino acids, e.g.: the Millard reaction (browning) caused during baking reduces the available lysine.
Certain combinations of animal and plant or only plant based sources tend to have a complementary effect on each. For example; when we consume cereal (e.g. rice) along with pulses (e.g. chickpea) or poultry (e.g. chicken breast), the amino acids of one protein compensates for the limitations of the other, resulting in a combination of higher biological value. Therefore, it is possible for vegetarians and vegans to receive sufficient amounts of protein by eating a variety of complementary proteins combinations.
Protein & Weight Loss
Protein rich food gives high levels of satiation when compared to fat and / or carbohydrate rich food. Therefore, it is believed that including more protein in your diet will keep you feeling full for longer. However, actual weight loss can only occur when there is a definite deficit in the energy consumed v/s energy expelled, i.e., you lose weight only when you burn more calories (in whichever form) than you consume.