If you’re looking into different protein supplements, or you’re considering changing your diet, you might be asking yourself, “Does protein provide energy?”
Here’s a look at the roles that protein typically plays in supporting health — and why the body will sometimes turn to protein for an energy boost.
How The Body Typically Uses Protein
As part of every cell, protein plays a major role in the growth of skin and muscles, as well as the development of hormones and enzymes.1 These are just a few of the reasons why protein is so important.
- Supports Body Development And Recovery: Protein is always essential, but there are times where it’s even more vital to good health – during infancy and throughout childhood and the teenage years. Women have more of a need when they’re pregnant or they’re breastfeeding. When someone is feeling ill, or recovering from a surgical procedure or an injury, protein helps with the healing process.
- Helps Maintain Proper Fluids Balance: Proteins in the blood keep fluids where they need to be. If the body doesn’t get enough, these fluids will get pushed from the blood vessels into areas between cells, leading to swelling.
- Supports Hormone And Enzyme Development: Proteins help form hormones and enzymes. Both are critical in helping support major body functions, including cell function and the overall workings of the nervous system and the brain.2
When The Body Needs To Use Protein As A Source of Energy
As you can see, protein is critically important to the body. As if it didn’t have enough work to do, it can also function as an energy source when the need arises. When people don’t get enough calories from foods, the body will compensate by turning to protein.3
How does it do this? First, understand that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. One type of amino acid, called glucogenic amino acid, can be converted to glucose – a major energy source. In fact, some types of cells (including red blood cells and neurons, which are vital to brain function) only use glucose as energy.4
Certain Types Of Protein Are Especially Beneficial
While protein is fantastic, there are specific types of high-quality protein that are even more incredible in regard to what they can do for the body. Here’s a quick look at three of them.
- Pea protein – If you’re trying to drop some weight, pea protein may help support your weight loss goals. It reduces your cravings for certain unhealthy foods, and it supports healthy blood sugar levels.5
- Whey protein – Whey protein can help keep you strong as you lose weight.6
- Calcium caseinate protein – This type of protein, which is typically found in milk (it’s also referred to as a “milk protein”), helps keep your energy levels high and supports strong, healthy muscles.7,8
How Much Protein Do You Need Each Day?
There’s really no “one size fits all” answer to this question. The amount of protein you might need will vary compared to someone else.
In general, experts recommend that people who are mainly sedentary, or only get a little bit of physical activity a week should get about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Basically, if you’re 200 pounds, you should get 72 grams of protein per day.9
If you’re more active, then you’ll need more protein – especially if you’re trying to build more muscle mass and cut down on body fat. In that case, a 200-pound person will need somewhere between 100-180 grams of protein per day.10
Check in with your healthcare provider about how much protein may be right for you.
Should You Follow A High-Protein Diet?
So, now that you know how critical protein is to your overall health and energy needs, should you consider switching to a high-protein diet? Should you start adding more protein-rich foods, like meats, eggs, and milk? While there might be some potential benefits to this approach, there are drawbacks as well.
- First of all, if you get on a protein-rich diet, you may drop weight fairly quickly. Fast results may serve as a powerful motivator to stick to a healthy eating plan.
- A high-protein diet might help support healthy cholesterol levels and weight. When your cholesterol levels are lower, that can help promote cardiovascular health.
- Eating a high-protein diet should help you feel full and satisfied. This might help keep cravings and overeating at bay.11
- Those fast weight loss results may not last long. Unfortunately, most of the weight you’ll first lose on a high-protein diet will be water weight. The body will work to replace that loss, and the weight will return – enough to very likely wipe out those initial results.
- A high-protein diet may lead to fatigue or irritability. Sleep issues might also be a problem as the body adjusts to this new form of eating.
- High-protein diets may lead some to eat more foods high in saturated fats. Overall cholesterol could decline, but bad cholesterol could eventually increase. Sticking to healthy, lean proteins may help.12
Get the Help Of A Professional
Even though the answer to the question of, “Does protein provide energy to your body?” is “yes,” that doesn’t mean you should immediately go to the grocery store and stock up on high-protein foods.
You need to talk to your doctor before you decide to make any sort of sudden change to your diet. If you’re looking to up your protein consumption, ask your physician or nutritionist how much you’ll need each day.