You might have heard that eating sufficient protein is important when it comes to weight loss. This is true! Let’s have a look at the reasons for it.
Before we talk about protein, we need to have a look at the mechanism behind weight loss and weight gain. You lose weight when you expend more energy than you take in, and you gain weight when you take in more energy than you expend. A diet sufficiently high in protein can impact both sides of this equation in favour of weight loss. It can help limit the energy you take in, and it can support more energy being expended.
- Foods that are high in protein are generally very satiating, When you eat a higher protein diet, you are therefore less likely to feel hungry in-between your meals and snacks, which makes it easier for you to make better food choices. Therefore, you likely take in less energy than you would on a lower protein diet. This is where protein has the biggest impact on weight loss by far!
- Getting sufficient protein is important when it comes to building muscle, but it is also important when it comes to keeping your existing muscle mass while losing weight. Keeping as much of your muscle as possible when you lose weight is important for performance reasons, but having more muscle mass also leads to a higher basal metabolic rate; which means that the more muscle you have, the more energy your body needs to sustain your vital functions while you are inactive. Here, protein helps you sustain a higher energy expenditure.
- This last point has a very small impact, but it is worth a mention anyway: Thermic effect of food. This refers to the energy it takes to digest food. Protein has the highest thermic effect of the macronutrients, which means that compared to carbohydrates or fat (or even alcohol), digesting protein requires more energy. This is another way protein helps you expend more energy.
Now that we’ve established that getting enough protein is important- how much protein should you aim for when trying to lose weight?
I would recommend hitting between 1,4g- 2,0g protein/ kg bodyweight/ day.
If you aren’t into the numbers and do not want to track, the following recommendations will help you get enough protein anyway:
- Have a source of protein with every meal; especially breakfast. Breakfast, especially when it has to be quick, is often the meal where protein is lacking the most, so keeping an eye on your breakfast habits can have a large impact.
- Have high protein snacks ready for when you get hungry in-between meals. Good options include greek yogurt, edamame beans, lower fat & higher protein cheese varieties, certain (lower sugar & calorie) protein bars, and protein shakes.
- If you work out, make sure you have a serving of protein within a few hours after your training session.
I’ll soon make a post about high protein breakfast ideas and high protein snacks!