With the continued excitement for eating low-carb and Paleo–two diets known for having higher protein intake– the popularity of protein is reigning high. As you undergo your weight loss journey, you might question why protein is so prized. How does it really help you lose weight? Here are 5 reasons why protein can be your weight loss pal:
1. PROTEIN SATISFIES & SAVES CALORIES In the beginning of your weight loss journey, protein is important because it helps you feel fuller longer. Having protein around slows down digestion making us more satisfied and less likely to go back for seconds. If this happens over the course of multiple days your calorie savings can help with weight loss.
2. IT CURBS CARB HIGHS AND LOWS I don’t know about you, but when I come off a sugar high onto a sugar low I can make food decisions I’ll later regret (here’s looking at you, last breakroom donut). Pairing protein with carbohydrate-rich foods slows down the absorption of sugar from your stomach into your bloodstream, which may help keep your blood sugar from skyrocketing and ward off future cravings.
3. PROTEIN REQUIRES MORE OF YOUR ENERGY The “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. Protein has a higher TEF compared to carbs and fat meaning you’re actually burning more calories to process protein than to process the other two.
4. IT FUELS FAT BURNING It may be surprising, but it is a scientific fact that your body cannot effectively burn and use fat as energy if it doesn’t have help from either carbohydrate or protein. As you are losing weight, your body loses both muscle and fat (I know, bummer!). During this process it is especially important that you continue to eat enough protein in your diet. Having adequate protein coming in from your food fuels fat burning while preserving calorie-burning lean muscle.
5. PROTEIN PROMOTES MUSCLE REPAIR & GROWTH Your protein needs increase especially after bouts of intense exercise so increasing your protein intake on days that you exercise is beneficial. Additionally, if you strength train consider having a high protein snack right after a training session when the muscle is sensitive to nutrients that it can use to repair and grow.
One important thing to realize is eating more protein alone won’t necessarily help you shed excess weight in a healthy way. When consumed in excessive amounts it can still lead to weight gain much like eating excess carbs or fat would, and could put unnecessary strain on the kidneys over a long period of time.
But, you can still make protein a pal on your weight loss journey by getting enough protein in your daily diet. MyFitnessPal sets your protein to be 20% of your total calories, which should be enough for the average person.