Go ahead. Just try to imagine a world without protein. Picture your freezer, completely empty without your usual stockpile of chicken breasts. Or your cupboards, noticeably bare without tubs of protein power. And the worst scenario yet – picture yourself at the end of an intense workout as you reach for that big shaker full of … water. Just doesn’t seem right, does it?
The fact is, protein isn’t just a luxury to athletes. It’s a necessity. Search through any scientific journal and you’ll find information supporting the fact that dietary protein is a must for helping you get lean and muscular. As the building block of muscle, protein is the most important nutrient when it comes to strength, repair, and growth.
So what happens when you don’t get enough protein in your diet? Keep reading to find out!
1. Slower Recovery
Working out isn’t exactly a walk in the park for your muscles. Every time you slap on an extra plate or push through another rep, your muscles are working overtime to help get the job done. In the process, you are effectively breaking them down. When all the heavy lifting is done, you need protein to help repair your muscle tissues and bring them back to their former glory. That’s why people will usually grab a high-protein shake or bar soon after their workout. When you skip this important step, you’re denying your muscles the chance to repair and grow, which has a direct impact on your recovery. You’ll likely feel sorer, more sluggish, and less responsive to training.
2. Impaired Muscle Growth
Nobody wants to be known as the “skinny” guy. Even if you aren’t looking to bulk up like a competitive bodybuilder, a bit of lean muscle is always on the wish list. But take away protein, and that wish will never become a reality. Protein is made up of amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue. If you want your muscles to keep growing, then you’d better feed them a constant stream of protein throughout the day, ideally at every snack and meal. When you take protein out of the equation, your muscles lose their optimal food source. Switch to a pizza diet and you’ll see what we mean! Carbs might be fine in moderation, but protein is king when it comes to muscle building.
3. Muscle Atrophy
You might think we already covered this in point #2, but listen up. Not only is protein important for building muscle, it’s also crucial for keeping it. For example, if you’ve been eating right and working out for a while, you’ve probably made some decent gains. Maybe your friends and family have commented on how lean and muscular you look lately. If so, the last thing you want is for muscle atrophy to set in. It’s the “wasting away” of your muscles, and it’s not pretty. When you don’t get enough dietary protein, your body is forced to break down the muscles that you worked so hard for in order to get its hands on more amino acids. This puts you at risk for becoming that skinny guy we mentioned earlier. But keep your protein levels high, and you can keep your muscles right where they are.
4. Greater Food Cravings
When it comes to getting fit, working out is only half the battle. There’s that little thing called “nutrition” that also comes into play. When you’re eating well, everything is fine. But start binging too much on junk food and your results will be few and far between. So where does protein fit in? Your body has to work harder to digest high-protein foods (versus high-fat or high-carb foods), so it burns more calories in the process. Protein-rich foods also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer period of time. This comes in extremely handy if you’re trying to watch your portion sizes. When you don’t get enough protein, those food cravings will come in fast and furious, and they won’t be for healthy snacks either. If it’s 3:00 pm and there’s a vending machine in sight, you’d better be prepared.
5. Less Energy, More Fatigue
Feeling sluggish at work or even during your workouts? You guessed it … You might not be consuming enough protein. The same way protein-rich foods help you feel full and satisfied for a longer period of time, they also act as a long-lasting energy source throughout your day. That’s because protein helps fuel your cells, tissues, and organs. If you don’t want to waste your time in the gym (who does?), make sure to up your protein intake. Not only will you feel more motivated to train, you’ll likely see a difference in your overall strength and performance.
So, let’s recap …
Dietary protein is essential for muscle building, weight loss, and a host of other benefits. Skimp on this mighty macronutrient and you could be sabotaging your results. An easy way to get a steady influx of protein is to let supplements do the heavy lifting for you. You can choose from a wide range of high-protein shakes, bars, and RTDs to avoid the risks above, and keep your protein coming!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.