A Protein Experiment: From Small to Strong
Few topics in the health & wellness space are more debated than the topic of protein. You have one group telling you to consume 1g of protein for every pound of body weight and another telling you that you need less than 50g protein per day.
As with all my blogs, this is my personal experience of what happened when I changed how much protein I was consuming and the types. I am not here to prove to anyone that THIS is the right way, it is simply my lived experience and story to share.
Now that the boundaries have been set, dive in with me.
The year before the pandemic I was at my lowest. I was my lowest weight, my lowest energetic self, and the least confident I had ever been. There were many personal reasons for this dip in vitality, but one of the major reasons was my diet choices. I was overly cautious on every macronutrient other than fibre and was apprehensive about eating too much protein.
I was completely plant-based at that time and was getting less than 40g of plant-based protein into my daily diet. I was struggling with my body image and my “goals” in the gym were always to get smaller - To reduce my number on a scale.. To reduce the circumference of my arms and thighs. I felt lethargic yet it was something that I could control.
Fortunately life happened and put me in a position where I knew that I needed to make a drastic shift. I began to journal daily and note how I was feeling when I woke up and how I was feeling before I went to bed. I began to get curious about my diet versus wanting to control it. I began making changes to my diet. I stopped fasting (there are benefits to fasting correctly for a female, but I will dig into that in another blog) and began introducing eggs for breakfast. It was the first time in my life that I was prioritizing protein and healthy fats in my breakfast - I found that I wasn’t hitting a wall of exhaustion at 1pm, I found that I didn't need that extra coffee in the afternoon.
By taking the necessary steps to heal my relationship with my body I began to ask myself how I would feel if my goal was to be strong instead of small.
That's when the energy started to flow.
I began to re-introduce animal protein into my diet, alongside a predominately plant-forward plate, and found that I had more energy, less brain fog, and better focus. When I stopped looking for someone to give me the magical numbers of the ideal diet and started to look at my diet as a personal journey for my unique body I was able to identify what worked, and what didn’t work, for my body type and lifestyle.
Fast forward to today. I eat roughly over 100g of protein per day with a focus on getting a diverse amount of fibre from fruits and vegetables. I am the heaviest weight I have ever been, yet I am the strongest I have ever been. I went from barely being able to deadlift 40lbs to confidently lifting 135lb with ease. I now experience sustainable energy throughout my day with only one small coffee around 9am in the morning AFTER breakfast and I no longer have visceral cravings for sweets after dinner. I look forward to working out to see what my body can do that day, I find joy in pushing my limits and no longer give a s#!t about how my arms or thighs look.. I only care about how they feel to me.
Getting curious about my diet and tuning out the noise was one of the greatest shifts I've ever made for myself. By making protein a priority in my diet I've been able to change so much in my life that brings me great joy.
It's hard to question our beliefs, but our bodies have a deep knowing of what they need - Sometimes we simply need to stop and listen to what it is asking for.
There are many different ways of getting protein into your diet - It can be plant-based, it can be animal-based, or a combination of both - But I will always advocate for everyone to get curious about how much they are getting into their daily diet and to experiment with different amounts.
Protein plays various crucial roles for our bodily functions. I could go on and on about the impacts it has but there are far smarter people to learn that from. If you would like to dive into the true science behind it here is a Huberman podcast with Dr. Layne Norton explaining the significance of protein in detail. Instead - I’ve put down my Cole’s notes so that you can get the idea as to why it is so important for our bodies.
Growth & Repair
Protein is a vital component of our body’s tissues, muscles, organs, and skin. If you do not have adequate protein, your body can not build or repair these structures. One of the greatest impacts I found was that when I increased my protein intake, my body’s aches and pains went away. I was able to work out and not be in agony for 2-3 days post lifting weights.
Hormones (with a CAPITAL H)
Protein provides the necessary amino acids that serve as building blocks for hormone production. They help produce and regulate hormones such as estrogen and progesterone and when your body is lacking adequate protein is can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause irregular menstrual cycles, fatigue, muscle weakness, hair loss, and a weakened immune function.
Let’s just say that I learned my lesson when I developed a massive bald spot dead centre in the middle of my head, a reaction that I explain by an immense amount of stress that I didn’t know how to process and a drastic deficiency in protein in my diet.
Protein plays a vital role in our immune systems. The amino acids mentioned earlier produce immune cells (such as white blood cells and antibodies) that are crucial in fighting infections, detecting and fighting pathogens, and coordinating our immune response. A lack of adequate protein can cause increased inflammation, wounds to heal slower, and a reduction in immune cells.
Proteins serve as enzymes that are critical for our digestion, energy production, and creation of new molecules. It helps balance the fluid levels in our body and even acts as transported for various molecules like hemoglobin (the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood)… You get the gist of it.. Protein is absolutely VITAL for our health.
By consistently having my Nook meals ready to go in my fridge Monday to Friday I’m now able to hit my protein targets while finally having the time during the week to consistently get to the gym so that I can feel stronger, both mentally and physically.
As always - If you have any questions about my personal journey shifting my diet or about ways to get more protein into your diet please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - You deserve to understand how incredible your body can feel, and how strong your mind can be, when you care for it with the proper nutrition and movement it craves.