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Protein and Weight Loss: How Much Protein Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

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Protein and Weight Loss:  How Much Protein Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

 

Decades of scientific research on nutrition and weight loss has uncovered a few key pieces of information on what helps people successfully win the battle of the bulge. 

 

  1. First, we know that while exercise is important, a person’s healthy eating habits likely matters more for weight loss than the hours they spend in the gym.

     

  2. Second, when it comes to dieting, there is no single best one for losing weight; many diets can work quite well as long as total calorie balance is accounted for. 

     

  3. Third, dietary protein is one of the key “levers” in a diet that increases the likelihood of someone’s ability to lose weight. 

 

This article is going to cut through a lot of the noise surrounding protein and tell you how much protein you should be eating to lose weight and some of the things you should consider when planning your diet.

 

WHAT IS PROTEIN?

 

Protein is an important macronutrient that is involved in nearly all bodily functions and processes. It plays a key role in exercise recovery and is an essential dietary nutrient for healthy living. The elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen combine to form amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Protein and amino acids are primarily use to create bodily tissues, form enzymes and cellular transporters, maintain fluid balance, and more.

 

HOW MUCH PROTEIN PER DAY TO LOSE WEIGHT?

 

If you want to lose weight, aim for a daily protein intake between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (.73 and 1 grams per pound). Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram (1-1.5 grams per pound) if aiming for weight loss.

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PROTEIN IN WEIGHT LOSS?

 

Dietary protein can be an important part of a diet that is intended for weight loss. 

 

While there are many benefits to dietary protein, there are four main areas that have direct effects on weight loss: 

 

  1. Satiety 
  2. Lean mass
  3. Thermic effect of food
  4. Storage as body fat

 

 Let us take a deeper dive into each of these topics.

 

PROTEIN HELPS YOU FEEL FULL LONGER

 

One of the biggest things that impedes weight loss is hunger. 

 

People are far less likely to stick with a nutrition or diet plan if they experience high levels of hunger. 

 

Protein is the most satiating of all the macronutrients. Several different lines of research have all pointed to the same thing: higher protein intakes tend to provide more satiety and less hunger.

 

For example, in one study, high protein snacks allowed people to go longer between eating and also caused them to eat less at subsequent meals.

 

Another study showed that including protein into a glass of water decreased hunger compared to water alone. Depending on the source of protein, there does appear to be minor differences in the exact amount of satiety that protein provides, however these differences are minor and don’t really make a meaningful impact for most people.

 

PROTEIN PRESERVES LEAN BODY MASS

 

In addition, protein has another benefit on weight loss: it helps preserve lean body mass during periods of caloric restriction.

 

Currently, most evidence suggests that ~1.6 grams of protein per kilogram, or .73 grams of protein per pound is a recommended daily target for protein intake to spare lean body mass loss during periods of weight loss.

 

PROTEIN INCREASES THE THERMIC EFFECT OF FOOD

 

The thermic effect of food is the “cost” of digesting your food. 

 

Essentially, it takes some energy to break food down, digest it, and turn it into energy.

 

Protein has the highest “cost” of all the three macronutrients. While the total effect that the thermic effect of food has on daily energy expenditure and weight loss is small, it is not meaningless and is important to note. 

 

PROTEIN IS HARD TO STORE AS BODY FAT

 

During periods of weight loss, there are often times where more energy is consumed than expended. As such, minimizing how much of that excess energy (i.e. calories) is stored as fat is important.  The body processes the three different macronutrients (i.e. proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) in very different ways. 

 

Leaving out a lot of jargon and mumbo jumbo, in order for protein to be stored as fat, it goes through a much different biochemical process than either carbohydrates or protein. 

 

This process makes it much harder for protein to store as body fat. 

 

One study found that protein is stored as body fat with roughly 66% efficiency, while carbohydrates store with 80% efficiency and fats store at 96% efficiency.

 

During weight loss, overeating protein results in much less stored body fat than overeating on carbohydrates or fat.

 

SUMMARY

 

While many different diets can be successful for weight loss, the protein content of a diet is one of the important factors to consider when planning a diet. Protein has been shown to promote satiety, help maintain lean body mass, increase the thermic effect of food slightly, and can reduce how efficient the body is at storing extra calories as body fat.

 

 

 

THE AUTHOR

BRAD DIETER

Brad is a trained Exercise Physiologist, Molecular Biologist, and Biostatistician. He received his B.A. from Washington State University and a Masters of Science in Biomechanics at the University of Idaho, and completed his PhD at the University of Idaho. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship in translational science at Providence Medical Research Center, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital where he studied how metabolism and inflammation regulate molecular mechanisms disease and was involved in discovering novel therapeutics for diabetic complications. Currently, Dr. Dieter is the Chief Scientific Advisor at Outplay Inc and Harness Biotechnologies and is active in health technology and biotechnology. In addition, he is passionate about scientific outreach and educating the public through his role on Scientific Advisory Boards and regular writing on health, nutrition, and supplementation.

 

 

 


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