Increasing your protein intake is only relevant if you want to build muscle mass, right?
Nope, that’s wrong.
Whether you’re working out daily or not, your body needs protein to function. Your skin needs protein to build it’s barrier and repair itself. Without enough protein you’re going to have a hard time achieving clear, healthy skin.
So let’s get into all the reasons of why you need protein, so that you can clear your acne for good.
The role of protein in skin health
Think of protein as the little Lego blocks that create you as a human being, and proteins are formed from amino acids – even smaller Lego blocks. These Lego blocks of proteins and amino acids make everything in our body, from skin cells to hormones. So to build a healthy human, your protein Lego blocks are needed to:
- Create structure in the body – think elastin, collagen and keratin (for hair, skin and nail health)
- Repair damaged tissues (so if you’re injured, you need protein)
- Create enzymes (things that help your metabolism and ability to digest food)
- Produce hormones (like insulin, testosterone and oestrogen)
- Support your immune system (protein helps create antibodies)
- Transport nutrients around the body to other organs (like oxygen, vitamins & minerals)
Ok, that might have gotten a bit sciency – so let’s break it down even further to how all of these benefits of protein affect your skin directly. The amount of protein you eat (and absorb) daily, can influence:
- How well your body is creating hormones that directly impact your skin (such as testosterone, oestrogen & insulin).
- How well nutrients are digested, absorbed and transported to your skin
- How healthy your skin barrier is
- How well your skin heals
See how important protein is even if you’re not exercising? Your body needs enough protein to create the healthy, glowing skin you dream of. And if you are exercising regularly (which I would encourage!), you should increase your protein intake accordingly.
How much protein should I eat daily for clear skin?
The recommended daily protein amount is 0.75g per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 60kg, you aim for a minimum of 45g of protein daily – your demand for protein will increase depending on your activity levels and if you’re recovering from an injury (or something like surgery).
Now if you’re confused about what actually counts as protein-rich food, I’ve made a list below of foods to include in your diet:
- Meats, fish, eggs and dairy (but if dairy triggers skin symptoms, avoid it).
- Beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds.
The most crucial protein tip
Now before you start loading up on protein powders, we need to get some healthy habits in place.
Every meal you eat must include protein (even your snacks!). This habit is vital for skin health because protein helps to balance your blood sugar levels, which helps to balance your sex hormones and provides the building blocks for healthy skin. As well, it’s always best for the foundation of your nutrients to come from whole foods rather than relying on supplements or protein powders.
To get you started with balanced meals, here are some examples of meal combos:
Toast + Eggs + Avocado (carbs, protein, fat + fibre)
Granola + Yoghurt + Berries (Protein + Fibre)
Noodles + Tofu + Edamame beans + Veg (Carbs + Protein + Fibre)
Fruit + Peanut butter (Fibre + Protein)
Fruit + Yoghurt (Fibre + Protein)
Veg sticks + Hummus (Fibre + Protein)
Where do protein powders come into this?
Let’s clear up some stuff around protein powders – because some may be more beneficial for skin health, and others may trigger some skin symptoms.
As I mentioned previously, you always want the basis of your diet to come from whole foods, meaning you need to eat protein-rich foods with every meal. Once you have that habit in place, I am a fan of protein powders being used to get additional protein into smoothies, post workouts or as a snack. I’m not a fan of protein shakes as a meal replacement (or anything as a meal replacement, to be honest).
How to choose a protein powder that doesn’t cause acne.
Firstly, protein powders to avoid if you have acne will be anything dairy based (think whey protein). While the evidence directly between whey causing acne is minimal, we do have research showing a link between increased dairy consumption and the worsening of acne.
If your acne is at its worst, I suggest swapping whey protein powders for vegan alternatives. Also, check the ingredients of the protein powder, as some can include added sugars. While small amounts of sugar are acceptable to include in your diet, too much sugar can increase hormones that contribute to oily skin, blocked pores and inflammation – all the things you want to avoid if you’re trying to clear your acne.
Whey protein is considered the best protein for muscle growth. Still, it also includes nutrients essential for our well-being, meaning aside from building muscle, it can also help to support the immune system, wound healing and gut health (as long as you’re not allergic to dairy). So if you want to include it, I enjoy Garden of Life’s Organic, Grass-fed Protein Powder.
What about collagen as a protein source?
I wouldn’t recommend relying on collagen supplements to get your protein intake. Collagen isn’t a complete protein, meaning some of the little Lego blocks we need are missing, compared to a protein powder or high-protein foods. But collagen can still help to balance blood sugar levels and increase skin integrity – so it’s great to add to drinks in the morning.
Has this changed your mind about protein? If you have any more questions about protein, you can always leave a comment or drop me a message.