Are you suffering from a bout of afternoon sleepiness? Instead of reaching for the nearest sugary treat, opt for a protein-rich snack instead, say experts, because contrary to popular belief, protein stimulates the mind more than sugar.
A new study by the University of Cambridge has found that proteins help perk us up when our energy levels begin to dip.
Researchers from the Department of Pharmacology and Institute of Metabolic Science at Cambridge looked into how dietary nutrients influence and stimulate wakefulness. The study involved the use of lab rats who were introduced to different nutrients, including amino acids mixtures similar to egg whites, with their orexin cell activity being tracked throughout the process.
They found the orexin cells in the brain that regulate energy balance, wakefulness and reward were most stimulated with amino acids from protein.
"We found that the orx/hcrt cells are stimulated by nutritionally relevant mixtures of amino acids (AAs), both in brain slice patch-clamp experiments, and in c-Fos expression assays following central or peripheral administration of AAs to mice in vivo," says Denis Burdakov from the study.
Researchers also found that protein helps to regulate sleeping patterns, too. They discovered that proteins prevent glucose (sugar) from blocking the orexin cell responses, which causes after-meal sleepiness induced by sugar and carbohydrates. They suggest that these findings help explain why people feel less calm and more alert after eating foods with high protein levels.
Other health benefits of proteins hit the headline earlier this month after the news of the 1960s food campaign, 'Go to work on an egg', making a comeback.
If you want to boost your protein intake and keep you energy levels balanced, find out how with these tasty protein-rich snacks.