It’s tough to stick with a healthy lifestyle plan during the holidays. Everywhere you look there’s an opportunity to overindulge. A few chocolates here, a glass of eggnog there. And another helping of mashed potatoes later you’re up 10 pounds.
If that weight stays on—plus some more year after year—it can add up to danger. Being overweight puts you at risk for some serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
But just because the holiday lights are twinkling, it doesn’t have to mean you gain weight. And one key way to help avoid weight gain is to add more protein into your day.
The power of protein
Why protein? Protein lives in just about every part of your body; it’s a major component of the skin, muscles, organs and glands and is found in almost every body fluid. Our bodies need plenty of protein to repair cells and make new ones. And protein provides energy and fuel to the muscle-building process.
Because protein takes a long time to digest, it helps to moderate hunger. So packing your meals with protein can help keep you from dipping into the holiday candy jar throughout the entire day.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 46 grams of protein for women over age 19, and 56 grams of protein for men. Here’s how you can make sure you get enough throughout the day.
Breakfast: If you don’t replace your body’s protein stores after an 8 to 10 hour fast, your body may start to dip into muscle tissue for fuel. You never want to lose muscle (more on that later). And protein in the a.m. can help you eat less all day. A study done at the University of Missouri, Columbia, looked at 20 young women who usually skipped breakfast. Each morning of the study, participants either skipped breakfast like usual, ate cereal for breakfast, or ate a protein-packed breakfast of eggs and lean beef. The women who ate the protein-rich breakfast felt fuller, ate fewer indulgent snacks after dinner and had lower levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin throughout the entire day.1
- Western omelet with peppers and Jack cheese topped with salsa, turkey bacon, and garbanzo beans.
- Greek yogurt with sliced almonds and cherries.
- Steel-cut oatmeal with cottage cheese, sunflower seeds, and blueberries.
Lunch: Protein is particularly important at lunchtime, because it wakes you up and gives you a shot of energy. Protein promotes the production of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which keeps you alert so you can focus on filling out those holiday cards.
And because protein takes a long time to digest, it doesn’t give you a roller coaster of sugar rush followed by a crash like sugars and refined carbs do. Instead, including plenty of protein in your mid-day meal helps keep your energy level steady, so you’ll have plenty of pep to power shop through the afternoon. And less of an urge to sit in front of the fire with the popcorn balls.
- Turkey, avocado and tomato on whole grain toast.
- Green salad with grilled chicken, sliced hardboiled egg, and walnuts.
- Whole grain flat bread pizza with fresh mozzarella, lean ham and veggies.
Dinner: After a long day of shopping, cooking or even partying, you’ll want a meal chock full of repair-oriented nutrients. Protein checks off that box because your body uses protein’s amino acids to repair and rebuild lean muscle. This helps preserve your muscle mass and its calorie-burning benefits. After all, the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you’ll burn, even while you’re sleeping.
- Grilled salmon with Greek yogurt and a squeeze of lemon with a side of quinoa and steamed broccoli.
- Steamed shrimp, white beans, and vegetables with garlic and low-salt teriyaki sauce.
- Turkey burger on a whole grain bun with lettuce and tomato and a side of burnt string beans.
- Serving up plenty of protein-rich meals this season can help you stay energized during the holiday hustle and bustle. It’s also a great way to help protect your (calorie-burning) lean muscle. But the best holiday gift of all is protein’s hunger-curbing action that can help you avoid overindulging and ring in the New Year without holiday weight gain.
About Endurance Products Company
Endurance Products Company has been a trusted source of quality dietary supplements since 1978. Our sustained-release and extended-release tablets feature a unique vegetable wax matrix that releases nutrients in a slow, steady manner over a period of hours for optimal nutrient absorption and retention.
1. Leidy HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM, Hoertel HA. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, "breakfast-skipping," late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(4):677-88. PMID: 23446906.