The more you eat of it, the more you lose. This is a scientific fact. If you’ve been following my Fitter YOU Facebook Page or have gone through my BLOG for a while then you may already have an idea of what it is.
Now I’m not talking about protein powder, but the macronutrient protein (the other two macronutrients are carbs and fat).
Studies show that if you eat more protein, you lose weight, even if you make NO other changes to your diet.
How does it work?
In order to understand why protein is such a powerful weight loss tool, we need to understand some basics. Well, though I keep saying this, Calorie IN = Calorie Out, is not the best way to approach this entire process, as not all calories are same, but it’s also true if more calories leave your fat cells than enter them, then you lose fat. And conversely, if more calories enter your fat cells than leave them, you gain fat.
Again, this is an oversimplified theory and it’s not the only thing that matters, calories are still an important part of weight loss.
Interestingly, protein works on BOTH sides of the calorie equation. It cuts your hunger AND boosts your metabolism.
It’s also one of the most powerful ways to reduce cravings, which are the dieter’s worst enemy.
Protein can make you eat hundreds fewer calories per day
By far the biggest reason why protein is so great for weight loss, is that it reduces your hunger. Numerous studies have shown that when people go on a high-protein diet, they eat fewer calories automatically. For this reason, calories from protein are a lot more slimming than calories from carbs and fat.
One study in 19 adults showed that increasing protein intake to 30% of calories made them automatically drop their calorie intake by 441 calories per day. This is a massive amount.And they also lost approximately a huge amount of weight … ~6 kg ( 12 pounds) in 12 weeks, just by adding protein to their diet.
In fact, tons of studies show that adding protein causes automatic weight loss, without intentionally restricting anything.
The mechanism behind this is interesting. The simple reason is protein increases levels of satiety (appetite-reducing) hormones like GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin. It also lowers levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
In other words, by replacing carbs and increasing & balancing protein with some very good quality dietary fat, you reduce your hunger hormones and boost your satiety hormones.
Protein boosts metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day
Not only does protein make you feel so full that you eat fewer calories … it also boosts your metabolism significantly, even during sleep. This means that if you increase your protein intake, you will burn more calories every day. One of the main reasons for this is the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
TEE is the amount of calories you burn digesting and metabolizing different foods. Protein has a thermic effect of about 20-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fat. This means that if you eat 100 calories from protein, only 70-80 of them end up as usable calories.
A high protein intake has been shown to boost metabolism and increase the amount of calories you burn by 80 to 100 calories per day. This is even more powerful during overfeeding. In one study, eating excess calories along with a high-protein diet caused people to burn an additional 260 calories per day.
This is similar to the calories burned in a full hour of moderate-intensity exercise! By making you burn more calories, high-protein diets have a “metabolic advantage” over diets that are lower in protein.
Protein also slashes cravings
Cravings are the dieter’s worst enemy. They are one of the biggest reasons why people fail on their diets. If you are a “yo-yo” dieter, then chances are that cravings are THE reason why you haven’t been able to stick to diets for very long in the past.
Another common problem is late-night snacking. Many people gain weight because they get cravings at night, so they snack in the evening. These calories then get added on top of all the calories eaten during the day. Interestingly, protein has a powerful effect on cravings and the desire to snack at night.
In one of the study of overweight men, eating protein at 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60% and cut the desire to snack late at night by half. This I keep listening from my Fitter”U” clients as well, apart from myself has realised this.
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day but only if you load up on protein along with Fat & veggie instead of those cereals, breads, porridge or all those standard Indian breakfasts. Several studies shows, a high-protein breakfast significantly reduced cravings throughout the day. And here I need to share my favourite regular Protein Breakfast – The proteinaceous Lassi. Which keeps me full for good 5 hours till my lunch, allowing me without any snacking in-between, and giving me all my necessary calories.
Other benefits of protein
Reduced hunger, increased metabolism and reduced cravings … it doesn’t end there.
Protein also helps you maintain your muscle mass, or even gain muscle if you need it. Muscle is metabolically active and burns calories around the clock. It is also good for bone health and can lead to modest reductions in blood pressure.
How to eat more protein
The best way to get all the benefits of protein is to include a high-protein food in most of your meals.
High-protein foods include:
Fish and seafood
Meat and poultry
Many dairy products ( curd, Paneer, Cheese, Ghee, Butter)
Legumes ( but eat in moderation, as they are also super high in Carb)
Protein rich veggie (broccoli, mushroom, spinach ec…)
Then some other plant foods and vegetables.
This will certainly make you feel full with fewer calories, boosting your metabolism and helping you controlling your cravings.