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August 23, 2013

The Power of Protein

Grilled fish, roasted chicken, Greek yogurt, lentil soup—you already know these foods are hearty and delicious. They can also help you successfully manage your weight and, along with resistance exercise, help protect your muscle tone as you get older.[7,8,9] That’s because they’re good sources of protein, [1,2] which studies have shown helps the body hold onto muscle mass (the body’s primary calorie-burning tissue).[7,8,9] Adequate protein may also help keep your hunger satisfied longer. [3] Here’s what you need to know about the power of protein.

When you eat a protein-dense food (such as fish, legumes, or dairy), your body begins breaking it down into smaller particles called amino acids. Once the amino acids end up in your muscles, your body starts putting them back together into your muscle tissue. This is the process your body uses to build and maintain muscle mass. [1,2,3]

However, your muscles aren’t the only body part relying on this powerful nutrient: All of the cells in your body need protein to function. When there aren’t enough amino acids from food available in the bloodstream, the body will start to break down and harvest amino acids from the muscles in order to keep more vital cells—like the ones in the brain and other organs—functioning. Normally, the ups and downs equal out and your muscle mass stays the same.

While most Americans consume plenty of protein, they’re not always reaching for the lean options. What’s more, research has shown that some women begin skimping on the nutrient as they get older [5], when they should be doing the opposite. That’s because losing muscle makes your body burn fewer calories. [3,4] The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 46g per day for adult women and 56g for men. [1] Remember, calories still count, so keep an eye on portion sizes and the information found on nutrition labels, particularly fat content. [1,2]

If your goal is to offset muscle loss, spreading out protein evenly during the course of a day is important. [6] (Another bonus: Protein, like fiber, may help stave off hunger, so you’ll be less likely to reach for a bag of cookies if you have a steady supply of protein). [3] For example, opt for a protein-packed cereal, like Special K Protein, in the morning. For lunch, grab a salad topped with grilled chicken breast. When hunger strikes in the afternoon, reach for a protein-packed snack like a handful of almonds or a bit of low-fat cheese. Then finish off your protein-filled day with a tasty piece of fish for dinner. While lean meat and dairy products have a lot of protein in 1 serving, don’t forget about plant-based sources such as beans, nuts and seeds, which tend to be lower in calories and provide other beneficial nutrients your body needs. [1,2]

Sources:

  1. CDC: Protein
  2. ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods are in the Protein Foods Group?
  3. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M.
    Protein, weight management, and satiety.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1558S-1561S.
  4. Bray GA, Smith SR, de Jonge L, Xie H, Rood J, Martin CK, Most M, Brock C, Mancuso S, Redman LM.
    Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial.
    JAMA. 2012 Jan 4;307(1):47-55. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.1918.
  5. Chernoff R.
    Micronutrient requirements in older women.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1240S-1245S.
  6. National Dairy Council: Protein Throughout the Day
  7. Symons TB, Sheffield-Moore M, Mamerow MM, Wolfe RR, Paddon-Jones D.
    The anabolic response to resistance exercise and a protein-rich meal is not diminished by age.
    J Nutr Health Aging. 2011 May;15(5):376-81.
  8. Symons TB, Sheffield-Moore M, Wolfe RR, Paddon-Jones D.
    A moderate serving of high-quality protein maximally stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis in young and elderly subjects.
    J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Sep;109(9):1582-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.06.369.
  9. Paddon-Jones D, Short KR, Campbell WW, Volpi E, Wolfe RR.
    Role of dietary protein in the sarcopenia of aging.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1562S-1566S.

Weight Management

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Kellogg's Special K

Many of your favorite Special K® cereals are made with whole grain® and fiber, making them a great part of your weight management journey.