How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally
Protein is the single most important nutrient for weight loss and a better looking body.
A high protein intake boosts metabolism, reduces appetite and changes several weight-regulating hormones (
Protein can help you lose weight and belly fat, and it works via several different mechanisms.
This is a detailed review of the effects of protein on weight loss.
How Much Protein Should I Eat Per Day To Lose Weight
- Protein provides satiety and keeps you full for longer. By increasing protein intake, you are less likely to feel hunger pangs, and as such, less likely to eat more food or binge on junk foods. So how much protein should you eat to lose weight? About 1.8 2.9 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight can provide satiety.
- A protein-rich diet can preserve lean body mass during caloric restriction. Lean body mass has benefits like combating obesity, protecting against diabetes, keeping bones healthy, etc.
- Protein increases the thermic effect of food, which means your body spends more energy on breaking down the food, digesting it, and converting it into energy.
- If youre asking yourself, How much protein should I eat per day?, remember that protein is hard to store as body fat as compared to the other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat. During weight loss, its important to note how much of the energy you consume, through food, is stored as fat. When you eat more protein than carbs or fat, youre less likely to store fat and gain weight.
Tip:Eating a protein-rich diet offers several benefits if youre looking to lose weight.Image: 123RF
Protein For Building Muscle
The more protein in your muscles, the bigger and stronger your muscles can get.
Bodybuilders have long known that there is an anabolic window after a workout during which muscles are especially greedy for amino acids.
So, if youd like to build muscle, make sure you eat a protein-rich meal within a few hours after training. Some advanced folks also like to add branched-chain amino acids or essential amino acids as a during-workout or after-workout supplement.
Here, it seems that a fast-digesting animal protein supplement is better at getting your body to make more muscle compared to plant-based protein . Of course, you can also just eat real food after working out.
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If You’re Trying To Lose Weight It’s More Important To Have A High
But while protein itself isnt harmful, many protein supplements are high in carbohydrates called Fodmaps that trigger digestive symptoms like bloating, gas and stomach pain. Stevenson advises reading labels carefully on supplements, bars and balls. Often, theyre very high in calories and contain huge amounts of carbs, often in form of sugar. You shouldnt necessarily think that because it says its high protein that its healthy, she says.
Protein has long been linked to weight loss, with low-carb, high-protein diets such as Paleo and Atkins promising to prolong the feeling of fullness. People fail to lose weight often because they feel hungry, and MRI studies have shown that a high-protein breakfast can help stop cravings later in the day.
There is sufficient evidence that protein is satiating, says Alex Johnstone of the University of Aberdeen. If youre trying to lose weight, its therefore more important to have a high-protein breakfast, such as beans on toast or a dairy smoothie, rather than to have supplements.
But she doesnt advocate Atkins-type diets and has found that cutting out carbohydrates has adverse affects on gut health .
Protein balls are often high in calories and can contain huge amounts of carbs
Instead, Johnstone recommends that overweight people eat a high-protein and moderate-carb diet, consisting of 30% protein, 40% carbs and 30% fat compared to the average diet of around 15% protein, 55% carbs and 30% fat.
Protein Is Hard To Store As Body Fat
During periods of weight loss, there are often times where more energy is consumed than expended. As such, minimizing how much of that excess energy is stored as fat is important.
The body processes the three different macronutrients in very different ways.
Leaving out a lot of jargon and mumbo jumbo, in order for protein to be stored as fat, it goes through a much different biochemical process than either carbohydrates or protein.
This process makes it much harder for protein to store as body fat.
One study found that protein is stored as body fat with roughly 66% efficiency, while carbohydrates store with 80% efficiency and fats store at 96% efficiency .
During weight loss, overeating protein results in much less stored body fat than overeating on carbohydrates or fat.
So How Much Protein Do We Need
This study doesn’t give us carte blanche to go and eat as much protein as we want, nor does it mean that eating more protein will necessarily lead to weight loss.
For most of us, if we’re not engaged in some sort of regular resistance-training program or reducing our calorie intake, 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day meets our daily protein needs. So for a 150-pound women, this is about 55 grams of protein per day, and for a 185-pound man, about 67 grams per day.
But the truth is, as Americans, we’re already overdoing it when it comes to consuming protein. As the December 2019 paper states, according to recent NHANES data, adults are eating 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. And as the authors point out, if you don’t fall into one of these anabolic or catabolic “stressed states,” eating more protein doesn’t prove to be beneficial.
If you are reducing calories or strength-training, eating closer to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is the optimal number to aim for, per the study.
According to this recommendation, if that same 150-pound woman has reduced her calories to lose weight, she might want to aim to eat closer to 88 grams of protein per day, and the 185-pound man should shoot for 109 grams.
But just like all calories are not created equal, all grams or types of protein are not created equal either. The quality of the protein you’re eating will affect your overall health beyond weight loss.
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Eating 100150 Grams Per Day
This is a moderate carb intake. It may work for people who are lean, active, and trying to stay healthy and maintain their weight.
Its possible to lose weight at this and any carb intake, but you may also need to be aware of calorie intake and portion sizes to lose weight.
Carbs you can eat include:
- all vegetables
- several pieces of fruit per day
- moderate amounts of healthy starches, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and healthier grains, like rice and oats
Increased Fat And Weight Loss
While it may seem counterintuitive to increase your fat consumption to lose weight, high-fat diets, also known as low-carb diets, are often successful in helping people lose weight. Low-carb diets and ketogenic diets don’t eliminate carbohydrates entirely but reduce them significantly.
According to a December 2018 study in the Journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and a September 2018 study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, carbohydrate intake in ketogenic diets is typically between 20 and 50 grams per day. The carbohydrates being counted are net carbs, which are carbohydrates minus the fiber or sugar alcohol content. If you have been consuming a standard diet, this means that your carbohydrate intake will be around 10 to 20 percent of what it was.
In order to reduce carbohydrates by such a dramatic amount and not starve yourself, you have to increase your consumption of other macronutrients. Low-carb and ketogenic diets increase fat content. In ketogenic diets, fat makes up 70 percent of your diet, 20 percent of your diet is protein and the remaining 10 percent are carbohydrates.
Certain high-protein ketogenic diets may have ratios like 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates, though. If you aren’t a fan of such a substantial carbohydrate reduction, you can also try low-carb diets that are a bit more flexible, like Atkins 100, a low-carb diet that allows people to consume 100 grams of net carbs per day.
Protein Before And After A Workout
Another important consideration is how to eat before and after exercise. A quick search of this topic will bring up a lot of conflicting answers as to what, how much, and when you should eat before and after working out. Generally its a good idea to have a good mix of protein and carbs a couple of hours before exercise so that you have the energy to do it.
After a workout, many experts suggest you should consume protein within a certain window of time. Again, there is debate and conflicting evidence as to how long the window is and how important it is to get some protein during it. A good rule of thumb is to consume between 0.4 and 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight within a couple of hours of a training session.
Because the evidence from research is mixed, dont get too bent out of shape trying to figure out specifics of eating protein after a workout. What is clear is that the overall protein you consume in a day is more important to muscle and fitness gains than timing protein consumption.
How To Eat More Protein
Knowing your protein goals is only half the battle, you still ended to figure out how that translates into food choices.
Start by learning where the best sources of protein can be found and identify high protein foods you enjoy eating. You can enjoy quality protein sources from a variety of foods including animal-based options like meat, fish, and dairy, or plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
Here are some resources to help you find the most protein dense foods:
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Based On Weight And Activity
There are other ways to get a more specific protein goal that may take into account lean muscle mass and/or physical activity level.
The average adult needs a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so a person who weighs 165 pounds, or 75 kg, would need about 60 grams of protein per day.
However, your protein needs may increase if you are very active. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Dietitians of Canada suggest that athletes need more protein.
These organizations suggest that athletes consume between 1.2 grams and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, with endurance athletes at the lower end of this range and strength and power athletes at the higher end.
You’re Trying To Lose Weight
Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, helping you feel full, and also pushes your body to secrete the gut hormone peptide YY, which reduces hunger. “When you bring protein to about 30% of your daily calories, you’ll naturally eat less,” says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of Foodtrainers, a nutrition practice in New York City, and author of The Little Book of Thin. “Protein decreases appetite and also, in my experience, helps you manage cravings.”
While studies are mixed about whether consuming more protein leads to weight loss, research is pretty clear that protein can help you retain more of your lean muscle as you lose fat. One 2011 study suggests amping up protein to as much as 1.8 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day to stave off muscle loss when restricting calories. Cut back on refined carbs to balance out the extra calories from adding protein.
How Much Whey Protein Should I Take Per Day For Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight, aim for a daily protein intake between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight . Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram if aiming for weight loss.
How much protein powder should I take a day to lose weight?
A 2015 literature review suggests that higher protein intakes appears to improve both weight loss and weight management.
How do I calculate how much protein I need to lose weight? According to the previously mentioned studies, a protein intake of around 30% of calories may be optimal for weight loss. This amounts to 150 grams per day for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet. You can calculate it by multiplying your calorie intake by 0.075.
How much weight can I lose with whey protein?
Whey Protein & Exercise Women on a weight loss plan should stick to one 30g scoop of whey protein. The beauty of a protein shake is for most people, it is easier to get down after a hard workout than eating the same amount of protein in a whole food.
Avoid Sugary Soft Drinks And Fruit Juices
Another relatively easy change you can make is to eliminate liquid sugar calories from your diet.
This includes sodas, fruit juices, chocolate milk, and other beverages with added sugar.
Your brain doesnt register liquid calories in the same way it registers solid calories.
For this reason, drinking sugary soda doesnt make your brain automatically compensate by having you eat smaller amounts of other things instead (
The harmful effects of sugar go beyond weight gain. It can have negative effects on metabolic health and raise your risk of many diseases .
Eating fruit, which also contains fiber and other important nutrients, isnt associated with the same negative effects as drinking fruit juice or other sweetened beverages. However, eating large amounts of added sugar and sugary drinks can harm your health in a variety of ways.
Theres no physiological need for these beverages, and the long-term benefits of avoiding them can be enormous.
Its important to avoid sugary soft drinks and fruit juices, as liquid sugar is the single most fattening aspect of the Western diet.
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Examples Of High Protein Foods
Below is a quick, simple and basic list of the most common high protein foods.
- Protein Supplements
This is by no means the definitive list of every food that contains protein, but it is a list of the ones that will provide the majority of your daily protein intake.
Pick your favorites .
Replace Cereal With Eggs
Many breakfast foods are low in protein, including toast, bagels, and cereals.
Although oatmeal contains more protein than most cereals, it still only provides about 5 grams in a typical 1-cup serving .
On the other hand, 3 large eggs provide 19 grams of high quality protein, along with important nutrients like selenium and choline .
Whats more, several studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast reduces appetite and keeps you full for several hours, so you end up eating fewer calories later in the day .
According to one older study, eating whole eggs can also modify the size and shape of your LDL cholesterol particles in a way that may even decrease your heart disease risk .
Replacing cereal with eggs boosts protein consumption, makes you feel more full, and helps you eat fewer calories.
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Easy Ways To Increase Your Protein Intake
Getting enough protein is important for your health.
For this reason, the Daily Value for protein is 50 grams per day.
However, some researchers believe that many people should be eating significantly more than this amount .
A high protein intake offers several potential health benefits and could help increase weight loss, enhance muscle growth, and improve your overall health.
Here are 14 easy ways to eat more protein.
How Much Protein Should I Eat To Lose Weight
Protein is an important source of fuel and building blocks for your body but how much protein should you eat when youre trying to lose weight?
Short answer: it depends on your body size.
The old Australian guidelines on protein requirements stated that women should get around 46 g per day while men should get 64 g per day. Newer research suggests this is too low – especially for people attempting to lose weight.
Want to learn more? Read our comprehensive guide about protein and weight loss.
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Low Carb Diets Help You Burn Fat
Low carb diets greatly reduce your blood levels of insulin, a hormone that brings the glucose from carbs into the bodys cells.
One of the functions of insulin is to store fat. Many experts believe that the reason low carb diets work so well is that they reduce your levels of this hormone.
Another thing that insulin does is to tell the kidneys to retain sodium. This is the reason high carb diets can cause excess water retention.
When you cut carbs, you reduce insulin and your kidneys start shedding excess water .
Its common for people to lose a lot of water weight in the first few days on a low carb diet. Some dietitians suggest you might lose up to 510 pounds this way.
Weight loss will slow down after the first week, but your fat mass may continue to decrease if you maintain the diet.
One study compared low carb and low fat diets and used DEXA scanners, which are very accurate measures of body composition. The low carb dieters lost significant amounts of body fat and gained muscle at the same time .
Studies also show that low carb diets are particularly effective at reducing the fat in your abdominal cavity, also known as visceral fat or belly fat. This is the most dangerous fat and is strongly associated with many diseases .
If youre new to low carb eating, youll probably need to go through an adaptation phase where your body is getting used to burning fat instead of carbs.