Protein, your Metabolism and Breakfast

As I write this I am being totally naughty and eating way too much Halloween candy, but I am okay with that. Creating and maintaining good health is not about deprivation and never eating for fun or pleasure again. It is about strategy. With the right strategy we can have our health and eat our cake too. That is why learning about health is so valuable. It puts you in the driver seat and lets you make well informed decisions, rather than floating through life hoping that you do not face poor health at some point in your life and/or feeling like the only way to resolve your health issues is through pharmaceuticals or surgery.

Understanding the importance of protein in your diet is part of learning how to create a strategy to obtain and maintain excellent health for you and yours. You do not need to eat animal products, however, it is essential to eat an adequate amount of protein. According to Total Nutrition[1], nitrogen is what differentiates protein molecules from fat and carbohydrates molecules. Protein molecules consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.  Your bones, organs, tendons, nails, teeth and skin are all made up of protein. Also protein molecules help fight disease, transport oxygen throughout our bodies, regulate many body functions, serve as building materials for growth and repair of body tissue and facilitate chemical reactions.  

Amino acids are the building block of protein molecules. There are twenty different amino acids. Eleven of them can be created by your body, however, nine of them cannot be. Those nine amino acids must be obtained through a person’s diet. This is where people who do not eat animal products have to be more clever and prepared. Animal protein is in general complete; meaning that they contain ample amounts of all of the essential amino acids. The following are examples of animal proteins:

  • meat
  • fish
  • poultry
  • milk cheese
  • eggs

On the other hand vegetable proteins are incomplete proteins. Meaning they are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. The following are examples of food containing vegetable proteins:

  • grains
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetables

In order for a person to obtain enough vegetable proteins. They must be cognizant of the which amino acids are in which foods and eat adequate amounts of those foods accordingly.  

See article the following article for more information about adequate protein intake for people that do not eat animal products: How to Get Enough Protein  in Your Veggie Diet

Part of the importance of protein is these essential amino acids. However it is not the whole reason why protein is such a key component of a healthy diet. Protein helps us create and maintain a healthy metabolism. According to Protein Power[2], our metabolic systems precisely regulate the storage of excess food energy as fat and the release and breakdown of fat for energy. Insulin and glucagon are the primary hormones involved. Insulin is the hormone of feeding and storing. Glucagon is the hormone of fasting and burning:[3]


Our blood sugar, through the actions of glucagon and insulin, controls our metabolism. By controlling your blood sugar levels you can control your metabolism. In order to raise your insulin level all you need to do is eat some Halloween candy, which of course will cause your blood sugar to rise. To increase glucagon you have to get your blood sugar low enough to simulate the pancreas to release glucagon. Which means waiting for several hours without eating until your blood sugar falls. This will bring about a surge of glucagon.

In general, too much time in the insulin part of the metabolic cycle and too little time in the glucagon part of the metabolic cycle results in a variety of health ailments including weight gain. In this case high blood sugar too much of the time is leading to food energy being stored in fat cells to be dominant. This is where increasing the amount of protein in a person’s diet can help. Carbohydrates have the most profound change in blood sugar levels. Fat does not do anything to insulin levels. Protein has very moderate affects on blood sugar levels. A diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein will increase the risk you will become obese and have other insulin related health problems. Thus an adequate amount of high quality protein is an integral part of a healthy diet.

The very popular Atkins diet is based on these concepts. Although Low-Carbohydrate dieting has remained very controversial,  a wonderful book was written about the conventional Low-Fat Diets versus Low-Carbohydrate Diets. It is called Good Calories, Bad Calories. The important thing to be aware of is that there are two schools of thought, and they conflict. There are only three macro-nutrient: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. Most sources of protein contain fat. Thus low-carbohydrate diets by necessity contain fat. This means the concept that low-carbohydrate diets help people lose weight flys in the face of the concept that fat molecules make people fat.

Unfortunately,  our scientifically understanding is not 100% established. The scientific research that has been done related to low-fat versus low-carbohydrate diets can be interpreted in more than one way. Our scientific understanding is continuously growing. However, we are at one time in history, and we have to make dietary choices now.

You do not have to guess what I think. I think that the idea of low-fat diets has become conventional wisdom, but diets too high in carbohydrates has been ruining the health of our nation.

In a previous blog I mentioned obtaining a glucose monitor in order to understand the affects that your diet is having on your blood sugar. This can be an essential tool for getting control of your blood sugar. However, you can be within a health fasting blood glucose range and still benefit from creating a lifestyle that allows you to eat a well balanced diet. Our bodies are able to compensate a lot. It is only when our bodies are no longer able to compensate for imbalances that our fasting blood glucose levels will reflect those imbalances. It is much easier to correct health issues when they are small rather than after they are farther out of hand.

I am not a fan of weighing food, thus I do not recommend coming up with some specific amount of protein to eat per day. I do not think it is maintainable. I think the best way to go about changing your dietary habits are first to understand conceptually what is going on with your body and what you can do to manage it. Then, start making incremental changes.

Instead of eating a waffle for breakfast, have an omelet. Instead of steak, potatoes and green bean, have steak green beans and a salad. If you understand that frequently eating high glycemic carbohydrates messes up your metabolism then you can make smarter choices when navigating your day to day dietary choices.

Checkout this article: Eating More Protein In the Morning Helps Dieters Retain Fullness Throughout The Day

 That’s it for now. Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween.

[1] Bauer, Joy, Total Nutrition, copyright 2005, page 26-30

[2] Eades, Protein Power, copyright 1996, page 32


~ by happydeviant on November 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “Protein, your Metabolism and Breakfast”

  1. I love the opening of this post:
    “As I write this I am being totally naughty and eating way too much Halloween candy, but I am okay with that.”

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