When it comes to achieving weight loss goals and maintaining overall health, one key macronutrient often takes center stage: Protein. Literally every cell in the body is comprised of protein making it crucial that we consume adequate amounts of it on a day to day basis. There is always going to be the long standing debate about the effects of fat and carbs and which is better for weight loss and health. I think almost everyone agrees that adequate protein is the most important part of a balanced diet. While numerous dietary strategies exist, prioritizing protein consumption offers a multitude of benefits. There are three main macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates, and protein which all have different effects on your body. Protein is by far the most filling macronutrient of all so when you increase your protein intake you’ll feel full longer and from less food. How? Protein suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin which is a hormone that helps you feel full. This appetite suppressing effects are powerful.
Here are 4 more benefits on why making protein a dietary priority for weight loss and overall well-being.
1. Increased Metabolic Rate and Energy Expenditure
Protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) compared to carbohydrates and fats, meaning that the body expends more energy to digest and process protein. Studies have shown that high-protein diets can increase energy expenditure which can aid in weight loss efforts. Research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that individuals following a high-protein diet burned more calories at rest than those on a standard-protein diet.
When we pair protein with carbohydrates at meals and snacks, it leads to better blood sugar control than if we ate either separately/alone. Eating carbs alone (i.e. a banana, or apple, or handful of chips, or slice of bread, or donut) leads to a rapid rise in blood sugar, and a subsequent blood sugar crash when our bodies crank out more insulin to shuttle that sugar into our cells and out of the bloodstrea
2. Helps Control Blood Sugar and Cravings
When we pair carbs with a protein source our blood sugar stays stable and better controlled, so we don’t get the sugar rush and crash. This means we are less likely to experience crazy cravings and energy crashes late in the day and more likely to feel full, satisfied, and energized after our meals and snacks.
In order for our muscles to repair and grow stronger they need protein. That’s why athletes often include protein-rich foods in their post-workout recovery meals.
This is the first and perhaps most important function of the protein.
3. It Repairs Muscles After Your Workout
If you’re pushing yourself in the gym eating a higher protein diet can make building that hard-earned muscle easier. More muscle = higher metabolism. Higher metabolism means you burn more calories in the day (even at rest), which will generally equate to being able to eat more food and maintain your weight.
When we don’t eat enough protein (or just calories in general), our body will break down our muscles to use as fuel. Nooo bueno if you are wanting to get stronger or sculpt more “toned” looking muscles. So, eating enough calories AND sufficient protein is paramount to build and maintain strong, lean muscle.
4. Enhanced Weight Loss and Weight Management
Prioritizing protein in your diet can lead to more successful weight loss outcomes. Research has consistently demonstrated that high-protein diets are effective in promoting weight loss and long-term weight management. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared low-fat, high-protein, and low-carbohydrate diets and found that the high-protein group had the greatest weight loss over a 2-year period.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Generally, aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is a good place to start but you may find you need more…or maybe less.
Seem too daunting to tack on THAT much protein at once? Start by adding 10-20 extra grams of protein per day for a few weeks and gradually increase. To make it easier try adding a lean protein powder to supplement the gaps in your diet plus its much easier to drink calories than eat them.
In summary, adequate protein intake is key if you want to lose weight, improve strength, increase or maintain muscle mass, and boost your metabolic rate. Prioritizing protein as a fundamental component of your diet offers numerous benefits for weight loss and overall health. Incorporating these protein-rich foods into your meals can promote sustainable weight loss, improve body composition, and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.