It’s no secret that eating protein is essential for building muscle, but did you know that consuming a high-protein diet can help you lose weight, too?
We rely on three major sources of energy to function: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Our bodies require these nutrients in large quantities (hence, the name “macronutrients”) to produce energy, repair tissue, maintain organ function, and generally sustain life. To feel our best, we need balanced amounts of each of these sources, and while carbs and fats supply energy, protein does a lot more for our bodies.
There are many restrictive fad diets out there that can help some people lose weight quickly. However, they are rarely an effective way to maintain weight loss and healthy eating habits in the long term. Instead of suffering through an extreme and restrictive diet, you can lose weight by simply tweaking the way you already eat. Adopting a high-protein diet helps you burn fat, reduce your appetite, and boost your metabolism. The best part? It doesn’t require eliminating other major nutrients.
Here’s how it works:
Eating Protein Reduces Appetite and Helps Manage Portion Control
It’s no secret that to lose weight, the calories you take in must be less than the calories you put out. For example, if, between your basal metabolic rate and your everyday activities and exercise, you burn 2,000 calories, then you would need to eat 1,800 calories or less to lose weight.
The problem most people have when trying to reduce their caloric intake is that they feel tired, cranky, and hungry. Let’s face it – those aren’t great feelings to have day after day. This is where increasing your protein intake comes into play. Eating protein makes you feel fuller and more satisfied than consuming other macronutrients. If you eat a larger portion of lean meat at dinner, for example, you will be less tempted to reach for a second helping of garlic bread.
Make sure to eat at least one serving of high-protein foods like fish, poultry, shellfish, or eggs at every meal. When it comes to snacking, trade-in your carby snacks for higher protein options like cottage cheese, beef jerky, almonds, or protein bars.
Digesting Protein Burns More Calories
Did you know that you burn calories by digesting food? This process is called the thermic effect of food (TEF), which refers to the calories your body uses to digest and process nutrients. Different foods require different amounts of energy (calories) to break down. Because protein has a much higher thermic effect than carbs or fats, you burn more calories in the simple act of eating protein than you do eating other macros.
Protein Changes Hormone Levels
Have you ever sat down with a bowl of pasta and felt like you couldn’t stop eating? Carbs and fats make us want to eat more, even after we’re already full. Protein, on the other hand, tells our brain when it’s time to stop.
Several hormones in your brain (GLP-1, peptide YY, cholecystokinin, and ghrelin) are responsible for telling you when you should feel full or hungry. Protein manipulates these by reducing the hormone that makes you feel hungry and boosting several others that tell you you’re full.
Eating Protein Boosts Your Metabolism
The biggest contributor to your metabolism is your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which refers to how many calories your body requires to function in a total resting state. In other words, your BMR is how many calories you burn by simply being alive. Muscles take more energy to fuel than fat. When your body composition has a higher percentage of muscle, it increases your BMR, allowing you to burn more calories while doing nothing. Sounds pretty great, right?
Combined with regular exercise, eating protein increases muscle size and raises your BMR. Drinking protein shakes or taking your favorite protein supplement right before or after a workout is the best time to get protein in your system and increase the size and strength of your muscles, thereby boosting your basal metabolic rate.
Calculate Your Protein Needs
Adopting a high-protein diet is a safe, sustainable way to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Calculate how much protein your body needs every day, then begin stocking your fridge with your favorite protein-rich foods!