Protein 101: The Essential Guide to Harnessing Its Weight Loss Benefits

By eMed on 5 min read
Protein 101: The Essential Guide to Harnessing Its Weight Loss Benefits

Just take a quick scroll through Instagram's fitness community, and you'll see how big a deal protein is for keeping your body healthy—especially when it comes to weight loss.

Fitfluencers love sharing their protein-packed meals, snacks, and treats with tips on how to sneak more protein into your day. But here's the real question: Does protein live up to the hype, and is it truly necessary to up your protein game?

What is the role of protein?

Protein is a fundamental building block for tissues, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies, crucial for growth, repair, and various physiological functions in the body. 

Protein is also an important player in weight loss due. It can help by:

  • Increasing metabolic rate: Protein requires more energy to be digested than fats and carbohydrates, meaning you use more calories to break it down, which supports weight loss.
  • Promoting fullness: Protein takes longer to digest, leaving you feeling satiated for longer, reducing snacking and overeating.
  • Preserving lean muscle mass: Weight loss causes both fat and muscle loss, but adequate protein intake can protect your muscles and allow fat stores to be used instead. 
  • Supports muscle growth and repair: Protein helps to repair and rebuild muscles after your workouts. When you build back more muscle, your metabolism increases due to your increased muscle mass.

How much protein do I need?

The recommended daily intake of protein is between 0.36-0.54 grams per pound of body weight. That equates to between 10-35% of your total calorie intake, but this is a recommendation and will vary depending on your activity levels, age, and other factors.

Studies have shown that higher protein diets have weight loss benefits within the first 3-6 months, but they have also shown that these significant differences fade after 12-24 months.

Knowing that you should aim for 20-30g of protein per meal is great, but what does that actually look like? As a quick example, 200g of low fat yogurt, 75g of chicken or 3 large eggs would provide you with 20g of protein.

How can I include more protein in my diet?

Following a well-balanced diet that is rich in whole grain carbohydrates, unsaturated fats and good quality protein sources will get you well on your way to achieving your required level of protein. If you find you are struggling to meet your protein requirements, incorporate protein powder into your diet. It’s quick and convenient, especially for post-workout recovery when your body is primed and ready for protein synthesis to support muscle growth and repair. However, relying too heavily on protein shakes can lead to a shortfall in essential nutrients like fiber and impact digestion, and they’re often not required if you eat a balanced diet.

Here are some easy swaps you can make to increase your protein intake:

  • Swap regular yogurt for Greek yogurt. It has nearly double the protein content and less sugar.
  • Substitute traditional pasta with brown, chickpea or lentil pasta, for more protein per serving and more fiber.
  • Replace white rice with brown rice or quinoa, a complete protein source that offers additional nutrients.
  • Enjoy a smoothie with added protein powder, spinach, and nut butter as a nutritious meal or snack.
  • Use nut butter or hummus as a spread on toast or crackers instead of butter or margarine for extra protein and healthy fats.
  • Include beans or lentils in soups, salads and stews to increase protein content and add fiber.
  • Incorporate protein-rich toppings like chicken, fish, eggs, or beans into salads to make them more satisfying and nutritious.
  • Being vegan doesn’t mean you need to lack protein, add things like beans, lentils, nuts, tofu, tempeh and seeds to your meals to boost your protein intake. 

Important notes about protein:

  • Balance is key: Protein is beneficial, but a well-rounded diet with proteins, carbohydrates and fats is essential for weight loss success.
  • Moderation matters: Protein can help to boost your metabolism and promote fullness, however excessive intake of any nutrient will lead to excess calories and weight gain. 
  • No magic bullet: Protein aids muscle repair, but exercise is the real driver of weight loss and muscle growth. 
  • A variety of protein sources is important: Protein doesn't just come from animals. Plant sources are also vital for a variety of amino acids, the building-blocks of protein .

Can I have too much protein?

Like many things in life, too much protein can cause issues. Let’s discuss a few signs below that might help you spot if you’re eating too much protein. 

  • You are constantly running to the bathroom: Excessive protein intake increases urea production, which the kidneys eliminate through urine, potentially leading to dehydration.
  • You’re eating more than required for your body weight: Evidence suggests that your body taps out of protein synthesis at this point, so any excess protein will then be stored as fat. 
  • You develop bad breath: When you increase your protein intake, your carbohydrate intake may reduce. This causes the production of a compound called acetone, which causes bad smelling breath.
  • You experience constipation: As above, a high protein diet may mean your carbohydrate intake is reduced. This may lead to reduced fiber, leading to an inability to produce a bowel movement.

Protein plays an important role in weight loss by boosting your metabolism, preserving muscle mass, and keeping you fuller for longer. Knowing where to find added protein in foods can support weight loss alongside a balanced lifestyle, which includes a range of nutrients and exercise. The best way to maintain weight loss long term is to find a dietary pattern that fits your lifestyle and that you enjoy. Find protein sources you look forward to eating, rather than what you think you should eat, as the results from engaging in healthy dietary habits that you enjoy have longer lasting effects than any other diet. 

If you are struggling to lose weight on your own, our Weight Management Program is here to support you on your weight loss journey.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before taking any new medication or starting a new dietary plan. 

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