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.
Tips To Help You Eat Enough Protein Every Day
Not getting enough protein is one of the biggest problems I see in my clinical practice when someone is on a healing journey. They mean well, but the recommendations shared with healthy people wont work for them.
They are often surprised to discover that a higher protein intake improves their symptoms as long as we can ensure that its being digested and well-absorbed.
The biggest challenge to increasing protein intake is knowing practically how much protein you need to eat. Frankly, no one knows what a gram looks like and can find it a bit challenging to figure out how to get enough in.
The first step is to figure out how much protein you eat on average now before making changes.
I recommend using MyFitnessPal for 3 days to track everything you eat. Do not censor yourself here or alter your meals in any way.
Youll get a baseline of the grams of protein you currently take in now. This will tell you how much extra youll need to consume and where you have gaps in your day to fill. For example, if you dont eat any protein at lunch, then that would be a prime spot to add more in.
Then figure out how many protein grams you need daily by multiplying your weight by 1.25 or even 1.5 depending on how sick you are .
The more healing thats required, the more protein that will likely be needed.
Choose Leaner Slightly Larger Cuts Of Meat
Selecting leaner cuts of meat and increasing portion sizes slightly can significantly boost the protein content of your meal.
Whats more, your meal may even end up being lower in calories.
For example, compare the nutritional value of a 3-ounce serving of these two steaks (
Peanut butter can also boost the flavor and nutritional value of firm fruits like apples and pears, which are rich in fiber and antioxidants yet low in protein.
In fact, spreading 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on sliced fruit can boost the total protein content by 7 grams .
Peanut butter also works well with a wide range of other ingredients, including oatmeal, celery, whole wheat toast, or yogurt.
Adding peanut butter to your diet can boost your protein intake. It may also help decrease appetite, improve heart health, and lower blood sugar.
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The Amino Acid Profile Varies Between Plant And Animal Proteins
When eaten, protein is broken down into amino acids.
Proteins and amino acids are used for almost every metabolic process in the body.
However, different proteins can vary greatly in the types of amino acids they contain.
While animal proteins tend to contain a good balance of all the amino acids that we need, some plant proteins are low in certain amino acids.
For example, some key plant proteins are often low in methionine, tryptophan, lycine and isoleucine.
All proteins are made up of amino acids, although the amount and type of each amino acid varies based on the protein source.
Does Protein Have Any Negative Health Effects
Protein has been unfairly blamed for a number of health problems.
Some people believe that a high protein diet can cause kidney damage and osteoporosis, but science does not support these claims.
Though protein restriction is helpful for people with preexisting kidney problems, theres no evidence that protein can cause kidney damage in healthy people (
Overall, theres no evidence that a reasonably high protein intake has any adverse effects in healthy people trying to optimize their health.
Protein does not have any negative effects on kidney function in healthy people, and studies show that it leads to improved bone health.
The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, as they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs.
Some plants are fairly high in protein as well, such as quinoa, legumes, and nuts.
However, most people generally dont need to track their protein intake.
If youre healthy and trying to stay that way, simply eating quality protein sources with most of your meals, along with nutritious plant foods, should bring your intake to an optimal range.
How To Set Your Protein Intake While Dieting
Heres what we know so far.
- When youre in a caloric deficit, you need to eat more protein than normal to avoid losing muscle mass. The larger your deficit, the more protein you generally need, to a point.
- If youre leaner, you need more protein than overweight or obese people to avoid losing muscle.
- If youre training hard while youre in a caloric deficit, you probably need even more protein than normal to avoid losing muscle.
All of the above factors are also additive. If youre in a large calorie deficit, youre at a low body fat percentage, and youre training hard, youll probably need a lot more protein than the standard RDI.
This doesnt mean more is better for everyone, but lean, dieting athletes almost certainly need more protein than most other people.
Use this chart to estimate your protein needs:
|Medium to large calorie deficit, with progressive training.||2.3-3.1 g/kg|
These values are for your lean body mass, not your total body mass.
Did you enjoy this article? Still interested in a more customized nutrition plan? Learn more about our nutrition services here.
1.Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med. 2006 36:239262. Available at: https://goo.gl/RbLEX.
3.Phillips SM, van Loon LJC. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011 29 Suppl 1:647654. doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.
Why Do You Need Protein
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for nearly every cell in your body. For this reason, protein is considered an essential nutrient and if you dont get enough through food, your body is forced to borrow amino acids from your muscles which can result in a loss of important lean tissue and strength.
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Protein Amount In Seeds
As it turns out, on average, seeds actually contain more protein per ounce than nuts do. That isnt to say that nuts arent still an especially good source of protein. Plus, they’re very close relatives to seeds . Still, seeds are another great option for a protein-rich snack.
Whats the difference between nuts and seeds?
You may wonder why were mentioning seeds at all if this is a guide to the protein amounts in nuts. Well, nuts and seeds are actually closely related. Theyre not the same thing, but you could call them “cousins.”
That is, inside of a nut, youll often find a seed. This is because, technically speaking, a nut is a fruit. Once you break off the shell of the nut fruit, you get to the seed. Now, when it comes to most nuts, the seed portion of the nut fruit is indeed what you eat anyway. Again, the fruit portion is usually inedible. Still, seeds are generally found inside nuts and are, therefore, not the same thing as nuts. This is why many people call nuts one-seeded fruits.
With that said, a lot of people mix up nuts and seeds, and its easy to do! For one thing, the names of these foods are often misleading . What they look like is confusing too. For example, Brazil nuts and horse chestnuts certainly look like standard nuts, but they are indeed seeds. Additionally, walnuts sure look like traditional nuts too, but they are actually drupes or “stone fruits.” Almonds are drupes too, as are avocados and peaches.
Is It Possible To Eat Too Much Protein
Its possible to consume too much protein, and it could result in various health issues. Thats why its important to focus on your individual goals and eat accordingly while being careful not to overdo it.
For instance, consuming too much protein could cause high uric levels in the blood. Uric acid is a byproduct of protein synthesis. This could cause the kidneys to overwork and also result in health conditions such as gout.
Some of the cons of eating excess protein include indigestion, nausea, foul breath, and dehydration. Moreover, the excess protein will cause stress on the kidneys and the liver. Also, if youre trying to lose weight, excessive protein intake will cause you to sabotage those plans and youll end up adding weight.
But how much is too much? Its best to not go beyond 2 grams per kg of body weight, especially if youre not engaging in any type of exercise.
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The Benefits Of Protein For Weight Loss Explained
While the research cannot conclusively determine that dietary protein alone promotes weight loss or that high protein diets are the best approach to losing weight, what weve seen so far is fairly compelling.
It is becoming more apparent that higher protein intake has some serious potential benefits for dieters.
There are three main arguments for why you should consider consuming more protein when looking to shed pounds.
Choose The Healthiest Sources Of Protein
Just about every type of food has protein. Some have more than others. Whether you eat meat or not, you can get enough protein from your diet.
Apart from protein, you might also want to think about what else you’re getting from protein-rich foods.
For instance, to limit saturated fat, you’d want to choose lean cuts of meat over fattier cuts. And to cut back on sodium, skip the processed meats like hot dogs and sausage.
If you’re trying to get more omega-3s, you might choose salmon, tuna, or eggs fortified with omega-3s.
If you need to get more fiber, look to beans, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
To help lower the chance of getting heart disease, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of red meat, especially processed red meat, and eat more fish, poultry, and beans, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Most nutritionists agree the best approach is to choose from a variety of protein sources.
If you’re watching your weight, try including protein with every meal. It will help you feel full longer. Spreading protein evenly across your meals is also good for your muscles, which is especially important as you get older and start to lose muscle mass.
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How Much Protein Do I Need For Weight Loss
If youre looking to build muscle while also losing weight, youll want to keep your protein intake high but lower your carbohydrate intake slightly. The goal is to get plenty of protein while controlling overall calorie intake. People looking to only build muscle should increase the amount of calories they consume for ultimate muscle growth, but if weight loss is part of the end-goal, then youll want to be mindful of total calories.
Your protein needs for weight loss will depend on what your activity level is roughly anywhere between 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram, with 1.6 being the sweet spot for maintaining and building muscle while losing weight. Youll need to eat enough to ensure your body has the fuel it needs for necessary processes, but achieving weight loss might require a reduction or adjustment in your daily calorie intake.
How Much Protein Do You Actually Need To Eat
One of the most common myths about protein is that we generally dont consume enough both omnivores and those on stricter diets, like vegetarians and vegans, are told this by family, friends, and the media. The good news is that we actually do usually get enough, if we are eating a well-balanced diet.
But what exactly is enough? Every single person on earth has different protein needs and those needs will shift over time depending on your age, weight, current activity level, and if youre undergoing anything major, like pregnancy or illness. That makes it pretty tricky to calculate, but there are some great guidelines that can help you feel confident in the protein you are actually eating.
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Im Still Not Sure How Much Protein I Really Need
This is where nutritionists come in handy. Protein requirements can differ from person to person depending on what type of exercise they do, Haggerty explains, so working one-on-one with a dietitian can be beneficial if youre unsure if your needs are being met!
If you cant afford to see a specialist, aim for one of the guidelines listed here based on your level of exercise. Youre unlikely to hurt your kidneys if you dont stray too far from those recommendations, and its difficult to eat a harmful amount of protein if youre eating a balanced diet, anyway. Remember, the best diet advice is generally the most boring: eat a variety of foods in moderation. And enjoy it!
Applying Protein Food Sources At Meals
Keep in mind if you are aiming for 20 grams per meal you will want a variety of these foods included. If you prefer meat or fish, a 3-ounce serving will give you about 20 grams. Vegetarian? Include some delicious whole grains, legumes, and/or dairy and you can easily get this much at a meal as well!
Want more help? Contact me and I would love to guide you through it!
Below are some of my recipes including adequate protein sources:
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Are You Getting Too Much Protein
Judging by all the protein bars, shakes and powders out there, you get the impression you need more protein. There are claims it curbs appetite, helps with weight loss and builds muscle. But whats the real story?
Contrary to all the hype that everyone needs more protein, most Americans get twice as much as they need. This is especially true for males 14-70 years of age, who the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise to decrease meat, poultry and egg consumption. Even athletes are often getting more protein than they need, without supplements, because their calorie requirements are higher, and with more food, comes more protein.
True or False: Big steak = bigger muscles
False. Although adequate protein throughout the day is necessary, extra strength training is what leads to muscle growth, not extra protein intake. You cant build muscle without the exercise to go with it.
The body cant store protein, so once needs are met, any extra is used for energy or stored as fat. Excess calories from any source will be stored as fat in the body.
Extra protein intake can also lead to elevated blood lipids and heart disease, because many high-protein foods you eat are high in total fat and saturated fat. Extra protein intake, which can be taxing on the kidneys, poses an additional risk to individuals pre-disposed to kidney disease.
How much protein do I need?
Excessive protein intake would be more than 2 g per kg of body weight each day.
Where does protein come from?
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.
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Meat And Dairy Products
Animals and animal products are comprised of complete proteins, which contain all the amino acids our bodies need to function at its best. Heres the amount of protein found in some animal and animal products:
- An order of steak at a restaurant 36 grams
- A glass of milk 6 grams
- 2 slices of cheese 10.5 grams