Protein is an essential macronutrient required for optimal health, hormone production, and well-being. It’s discussed quite heavily when individuals are trying to build strength, but this staple building block for lean muscles also serves as a powerful ally in your quest to lose weight, get fit, and dominate a transformation challenge!
How Protein Helps Weight Loss
Researchers have identified several mechanisms by which protein supports weight loss:
Protein offers greater satiety compared to either carbohydrates or fat. By consuming a higher portion of your daily calories from protein, you’ll feel fuller from your meals, and thereby be less likely to snack between meals and overeat. Collectively, this helps you stay on track with your nutrition plan and continue to lose weight.
Several factors affect how many calories your body burns each day (aka total daily energy expenditure -- TDEE). One of these factors is diet-induced thermogenesis. While foods provide our bodies with energy, our bodies have to expend energy in order to digest, absorb, and utilize these foods.
Certain foods require more effort to digest than others. Protein is the most thermogenic of all the macronutrients, which means your body has to expend more energy (i.e. calories) to digest it compared to either carbohydrates or fats. What this means is that consuming a diet higher in protein and thus reducing the amount of carbohydrates and fat you consume could help your body to burn a few extra calories throughout the day. Over days, weeks, and months, this could aid weight loss and body recomposition.
Protect Lean Mass and Maintain Body Weight
When dieting you are at a greater risk of losing muscle due to lower energy intake. Consuming a higher protein diet (as well as resistance training) helps protect against muscle loss by sending a powerful signal to the body it needs to keep the muscle tissue it has to perform strenuous work (i.e. exercise).
Maintaining a higher amount of muscle (fat-free mass) supports a higher resting energy expenditure despite weight (body fat) loss.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Current clinical recommendations are for individuals to consume 0.8g/kg of body weight of protein per day. This is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 135-lb person, this is 48.6 grams of protein.
If that sounds like a woefully low amount of protein, you’re right. That’s because these clinical recommendations are based on the “minimal” amount of protein the body needs to merely survive.
For an active individual that regularly engages in demanding exercise as well as those looking to lose weight or build muscle, this is simply inadequate.
A better option would be to aim for about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 135 pounds, make it a goal to consume 135 grams of protein per day. Ideally, you would divide this as evenly as possible across however many meals you eat per day (e.g 3, 4, 5, etc.). This allows for better digestion and absorption of dietary protein as well as provides regular “pulses” of essential amino acids (EAAs) your muscles require to stay strong, resilient, and healthy.
The Best High Protein Foods
Many individuals struggle to consume enough protein, but the reality is that there is an abundance of options to choose from to meet your daily protein requirements.
The best sources of high-protein food sources include:
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.)
- Seafood (salmon, cod, tuna, shrimp, oysters, etc.
- Eggs & egg whites
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Legumes (beans, lentils, )
- Protein Shakes (Whey, Egg, or Vegan)
Not only is protein essential to everyday health, it’s also a delicious and effective tool for weight loss.
Over the years, there has been a misconception that high-protein diets are “dangerous” or “bad.” But, numerous studies have shown that high protein diets are an effective and safe tool for weight reduction that can prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases.
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- N. Glickman, H. H. Mitchell, E. H. Lambert, R. W. Keeton, The Total Specific Dynamic Action of High-Protein and High-Carbohydrate Diets on Human Subjects: Two Figures, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 36, Issue 1, July 1948, Pages 41–57, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/36.1.41
- Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30;29(3):166-173. doi: 10.7570/jomes20028. PMID: 32699189; PMCID: PMC7539343.