Eating Protein for Weight Loss

Eating Protein for Weight Loss

Weight loss is much easier when you eat more protein. A high intake of protein is related to a boosted metabolism and reduced appetite, and it can help you lose body fat while you build muscle. [179]

Protein reduces hunger

When your brain works out whether you are hungry or not, many sources of information are processed, with arguably the most important being the hormones that are sent to the brain when you are hungry.

A higher protein intake reduces the number of hunger hormones sent, while increasing the levels of satiety hormones. [181] A reduction in fat and carb intake, replaced by a higher protein intake, causes lower levels of hunger and means that you naturally eat less calories.

Protein makes you burn more calories

Some of the calories consumed through foods are used to digest these foods, in a process known as the thermic effect of food (TEF).

There is no consensus on exact figures, but it is widely considered that protein has a considerably higher thermic effect than either carbs or fat. [183] If we were to take the higher end of this figure and say 30 per cent, it means that for every 100 calories of protein only 70 are usable.

Protein also increases the number of calories burnt throughout the day, even while sleeping. [184] The fact that you burn more calories when eating a high-protein diet means it has a ‘metabolic advantage’ over diets that are lower in protein.

Weight loss is aided by protein

The vast majority of studies on the matter show that high-protein diets lead to significant weight loss. [185]

Increasing protein intake has also long been known to be related to lower levels of belly fat, which builds up around the organs and has been linked to disease. [186]

However, as good as this is, a healthy lifestyle is more important than short-term weight loss. A higher protein intake can also help here, as one study found that even a small increase in protein intake could reduce weight regain by around 50 per cent. [187]

Protein reduces muscle loss

Weight loss doesn’t necessarily just mean fat loss. When we lose weight, our muscle mass tends to decrease at the same time. While losing muscle is an unfortunate side effect of losing weight, eating protein can at least help reduce the amount of muscle lost. [188]

Strength training is also very effective as a means of preventing excessive muscle loss, and when paired with a high protein intake it can help a huge amount. As well as helping reduce muscle loss, strength training can help reduce metabolic slowdown when losing weight. [189] For this reason, a high protein intake and strength training regime are two incredibly important components of an effective fat loss plan.

How much protein should I be eating?

Currently, the NHS recommends that adults consume 50g of protein each day. This amount may be perfectly adequate to maintain muscle, but if you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle then you generally need more than this.

The vast majority of studies on weight loss and protein intake use a percentage of calories to express the consumption of protein; most of them concluded that eating around 30 per cent of your calories in the form of protein was the most effective for weight loss.

It is possible to calculate how many grams of protein you should be eating by multiplying your calorie intake by 0.075. So, if your calorie intake is 1500 per day, you would need 112g of protein.

Another way to calculate a figure would be based on your weight, as a common recommendation is to consume between 0.7g and 1g of protein per pound of your lean mass.

How do I increase my protein intake?

It’s quite simple to increase your protein intake, because you just need to eat more foods containing protein.

As a general rule, anything that is or comes from an animal will contain protein. Things of this nature include meat, eggs, fish and dairy. Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans are also good sources of protein.

If you’re on a low-carb diet then you are able to use cuts of meat with more fat. However, if you are not then you should try to stick to lean meats, as this makes it easier to increase protein intake without drastically increasing your intake of calories.

If you’re still struggling to reach your protein goals then it may be a good idea for you to use protein supplements. Whey protein, in particular, is known to have numerous benefits. [190]

Despite the simple nature of increasing protein intake, it can be slightly more difficult to integrate into day to day life, so it’s recommended that you use a calorie tracker to start with. You don’t need to do this for the entirety of the diet, but it can help you see what a high-protein diet consists of in the early stages.

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