Andrea Metcalf by Andrea Metcalf

Protein is a powerful macronutrient and without it, you might have more difficulty maintaining both your weight and consistent energy throughout the day.

Proteins, which are made up of amino acids, are the building blocks of muscle, hair, enzymes, antibodies and collagen in the body. Your body produces 11 of the 20 amino acids the body needs. The other nine amino acids must be consumed through food. If a food has all 9 amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. Generally, animal meats, dairy and eggs are complete proteins, while most plant-based proteins, with the exception of soy, are incomplete proteins.

Here are six key benefits to eating more protein:

1. Stop the hunger. Protein has a specific hormonal response in the body when consumed. While carbohydrates elicit a hormonal response of insulin to help reduce blood-sugar levels, proteins elicit a hormonal response of glucagon that diverts blood sugars to the muscles. This hormonal reaction lowers blood sugar levels, which helps decrease hunger pangs. When blood sugar levels drop, the body craves food and sugars for energy. Protein’s hormonal response curbs your appetite.

2. Increase your metabolism. What you eat is important to your body’s metabolic rate. Calorie burn is a combination of body functions (basal metabolic rate) and food intake “thermogenesis.” Higher protein diets are associated with an increase of “thermogenesis,” which is the production of heat or calorie burn.

protein increases metabolism

3. Increase muscle mass. Post-workout protein is important to maintaining and repairing lean muscle mass. Research shows that eating protein after a strenuous workout session can promote muscle synthesis and recovery. More importantly, increased protein intake has been found to help seniors decrease body fat and increase lean muscle mass without strength training.

4. Improve mood and happiness quotient. Key amino acids in proteins help decrease anxiety, moodiness and even depression. Eating protein helps prevent blood sugar swings to prevent mood changes and food cravings.

protein makes you happier

5. Think better. It is estimated that 86% of Americans have suboptimal neurotransmitter levels. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which make up the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the brain’s chemicals that communicate information and control body functions like breathing or regulating heart rate. When protein levels drop, brain function decreases. As protein levels increase, the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar increases and the brain functions in thinking as well.

protein improves heart function

6. Improve heart function. Proteins are key to helping the body build cells and antioxidants. Glutathione is an important antioxidant that helps fight free-radical damage and improve heart function. One study of patients with heart disease found that individuals with lower levels of glutathione were more likely they were to have a heart attack.”