Some people believe if they eat more protein they’ll have more energy. Is there any truth to this? What does protein do, and can you count on it for extra vim and vigor? Find out.
All humans and animals need protein to survive. This substance, found in abundance in the human body, is in every cell as an integral part of enzymes. Because of its importance, some people believe they’ll feel better and have more energy if they eat a high-protein diet. Does protein give you energy?
What Does Protein Do: Does Protein Give You Energy?
Proteins have many roles in the body. Enzymes and hormones that regulate cells and bodily processes are made of protein. Protein is also needed to make antibodies that protect the body against foreign invaders and to build muscle and keep hair and nails strong.
Despite its importance, protein takes a back seat to carbohydrates and fats as a fuel source. During activity, the body calls on carbs and fats first to supply the energy it needs to fuel movement and activity. Only during times of starvation and prolonged exercise does protein become a significant source of energy. Therefore, eating a high-protein diet won’t boost your energy levels like eating carbohydrates will.
Carbohydrates are a superior energy source, because they can be directly broken down to glucose the body can use for energy – or stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen until it’s called into play. Giving your body carbs means offering it a source of energy it can readily use. This is why one of the side-effects of low-carb diets is fatigue.
What Does Protein Do: It Builds Muscle
Most people need around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily – and if you do resistance training, you need up to twice this amount to build lean body mass. Beyond this, more protein won’t have additional benefits, and too much protein puts additional stress on the kidneys. This is one of the things protein does best – it builds and maintains muscle. As a bonus, that extra muscle is more metabolically active, so you burn more calories each day.
Does Protein Give You Energy: The Bottom Line?
For more energy, eat more complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables since they can be directly converted to glucose the body can easily use. Keep your protein intake around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight unless you’re doing resistance training.
Merck Manual. Eighteenth edition. 2006.
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. “Protein and the Body”