Protein is crucial to the weight loss process. It might seem counterintuitive to eat heavier, often more caloric foods when you’re trying to lose weight, but the reality is actually quite the opposite.
First of all, protein fills you up. It takes longer to break down, and therefore, you’re not hungry again for a long while afterward. That means fewer cravings, less food consumed and, on the whole, fewer calories taken in. This is a sure-fire route to weight loss in itself.
On top of this, protein also increases your metabolism, which allows your body to burn more calories throughout the day. If you’re working out as a part of your weight loss plan, protein can help there too, feeding your muscles and helping build them up and get stronger. Then, as your muscle mass increases, your body can burn even more calories – even when you’re sleeping or just sitting on the couch.
According to a recent study in The FASEB Journal, eating more protein than the recommended daily amount can even help. In fact, the results of the study shows that when people doubled or even tripled their protein intake, they lost the same amount pound-wise, but saw greater fat loss than those who ate only the RDA of protein. Those who doubled up on their protein actually lost 70 percent of their weight through fat loss, and those who tripled up lost 63 percent due to fat loss. The others, who at only the RDA, saw just 41 percent fat loss.
Using Protein to Drop the Pounds
Just eating a serving of protein isn’t enough to gain these benefits. Nor is protein-loading once you get back from the gym. Sure, it will help a little, but it’s not going to have the dramatic results you’re probably hoping for.
The best route to reaping the weight loss benefits of protein is to eat it throughout the day – one full serving at each meal. That means a small piece of chicken or fish, a handful of nuts or one cup full of quinoa.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually showed that people who eat protein throughout the day saw a higher rate of weight loss and weight maintenance than those who did not. Additionally, University of Missouri research revealed that across 24 other studies, people who incorporated protein at every meal saw the most fat loss and most lean muscle mass.
A protein-filled breakfast is crucial, too. In fact, if you can get at least 30 grams of the stuff at the beginning of the day, you can feel fuller throughout the day. It will also keep you from snacking, thus decreasing your total caloric intake over time, and it will lead to better muscle protein synthesis, which means you’ll have more muscle mass and a higher resting metabolic rate.
Proper Amounts of Protein
A full serving of protein is probably smaller than you think, so don’t go eating a whole steak at every meal. A good rule of thumb is to stick to fist-sized servings – a fist-sized portion of lean protein like chicken, turkey or shrimp is perfect.
For non-meat foods, a serving breaks down to:
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of peanut or almond butter
- ¼ cup of beans, including black, kidney, pinto and white beans
- 1 cup of quinoa
- ¼ cup of nuts or seeds, usually about 12 almond, 7 walnuts or 24 pistachios
- ¼ cup of peas, including chickpeas, lentils or split peas
- 2 tablespoons of hummus
- ¼ cup of tofu
- ¼ cup soybeans or edamame
- 1 ounce of tempeh
Generally, about 25 to 30 grams is the ideal amount to shoot for, though finding out the exact amount in a food can be difficult – especially if you’re not eating off-the-shelf, boxed or prepackaged meals. Throughout the day, shoot for your weight, multiplied by .36. This will give you a protein goal that will help you optimize your weight loss in the long run. If you’re pregnant, elderly or just super physically active, you may want to aim for a bit more.
And remember, stick to healthy types of proteins, too. While a steak might taste great, red meat can be inflammatory, fatty and bad for your heart. Go for leaner cuts of meat, and be sure to get plenty of protein through fruits and vegetables, too.
Get Those Proteins
Take a look at your daily menus. Are you getting protein at every meal? Are you getting enough protein at all? Remember, weight loss isn’t just about cutting calories or killing yourself at the gym. Your body needs the right nutrients in order to lose weight, too, so start working good, healthy proteins into your diet today. Your weight loss results will be even more dramatic in the end because of it.
What are you favorite ways to get protein in your daily life? Which proteins are you just not a fan of? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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