Protein is a crucial nutrient that plays a vital role in our health. Apart from playing a role in maintaining our health and serving as a precursor for several hormones that run essential bodily functions, protein can also help you lose those extra pounds. You might have heard of the Atkins diet to promote weight loss. It is a well-known weight loss diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. One reason for the popularity of this diet is that you can reduce your weight without giving up on your favorite foods like bacon and burgers. Today, a high protein diet is equally popular among people who want to maintain a healthy weight as well as among gym lovers to gain lean muscle mass.
How Eating a Protein-Rich Diet Can Help You Lose Weight
Eating a protein-rich diet can help you lose weight in several ways. Let’s look at what is it about proteins that make them an incredible nutrient for weight loss.
Protein Helps You Feel Fuller for Longer Periods of Time
It takes longer for your body to digest protein than other macronutrients. Due to this factor, protein can make you feel full for a long time without craving food. Protein is also known to be more satiating than all other nutrients. This can be the primary reason for the popularity of a protein-rich diet to promote weight loss. In all other dietary plans to lose weight, you will need to cut back on your food intake, which can leave you feeling hungry after a while. This makes it challenging to stick with a diet plan for a long period of time.
Several studies have shown that protein can induce early satiety and prevent hunger. For example, a 2014 study showed that eating a protein-rich snack in the afternoon can cause early satiety and reduce the subsequent food intake in healthy women.
In another study, it was concluded that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% without making any changes in carbohydrate intake can result in less caloric ingestion afterward. This anorexic effect of protein can significantly contribute to weight loss.
Protein Helps Preserve Lean Muscle Mass
The goal of people trying to lose weight is to lose extra fat. Unfortunately, many forms of dietary restrictions can also cause you to lose lean muscle mass along with excessive fat. This is an undesirable effect of caloric restriction that can make you look skinny instead of fit and smart. However, this is not the case with eating a high-protein diet. Scientific evidence suggests that eating more protein can help you lose extra fat while preserving lean muscle mass.
A 2010 study compared the effect of protein on the lean muscle mass of athletes for 4 weeks. The results were compared between 15% protein intake and 35% protein intake while continuing the training at the end of 4 weeks. The results indicated that eating 15% protein resulted in 1.6 kilograms of lean muscle mass loss compared to 35% protein intake, which resulted in only 0.3 kilograms of lean muscle mass loss.
A high-protein diet is an excellent choice for people, especially competitive athletes, to lose extra weight while maintaining and promoting lean muscle mass.
Protein Boosts Your Metabolism and Burns More Calories
Another important and effective mechanism by which high protein intake can help you shed extra pounds is speeding up your metabolism and burning more calories for digestion. This is also known as the thermic effect.
A 2002 study showed that a high protein diet resulted in twofold more thermogenesis after 2.5 hours of eating compared to a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet. These results make a high protein diet a preferable choice for weight loss compared to other weight loss diets.
One interesting fact about eating protein is that it promotes energy expenditure long after eating. According to one study, protein can slow the decrease in energy expenditure during periods of energy restriction. It means your body keeps burning calories even when sleeping after ingesting proteins.
Protein is Less Likely to be Stored as Fat
You gain weight when you eat more than you need. This happens particularly during periods of weight loss. When this extra energy is not spent, it is stored in the body as fat. This is not the case with protein.
The difference of mechanism that is used to process and metabolize proteins is different than the ones used for carbohydrates and fats. This difference makes it difficult for protein to be stored as fat and add to your body weight.
You can say that carbohydrates and fats are stored more efficiently by our bodies as compared to proteins. Therefore, eating more proteins during weight loss periods can be a fine option to avoid gaining weight.
Sources of Protein
It is a widespread belief that protein comes from animal sources only. But plenty of plant-based sources are also available with high protein content. However, animal-based proteins are more readily digested and absorbed by the body as compared to plant-based proteins.
You can add the following high-protein food options to your diet to get more protein:
- Meats, including chicken, turkey, lean beef, pork, etc.
- Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.
- Legumes such as kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas, lentils, etc.
- Nuts, grains, and seeds
- Vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
- Fish and seafood, including tuna, salmon, sardine, trout, etc.
To summarize it all..
Protein is an important macronutrient that is essential for many of our bodily functions. Eating more protein can also help you lose weight by causing early satiety, delaying hunger, and increasing energy expenditure. A high-protein diet is an excellent choice for weight loss as it provides impressive results without making you feel hungry. It is also a superior choice for gaining lean muscle mass.