If you’ve read any of my articles about diet and nutrition, you know that I recommend a high protein diet.
There’s many reasons I do this, but the primary reason is that a high protein diet helps you lose weight.
Protein is not only filling, but it’s satisfying. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to finish that big steak when you’re out at a restaurant? Protein preserves your muscle when you’re dieting. Trimming down is made easier because the fat peels away to reveal pretty muscle underneath. Another less touted fact is that protein helps your skin.
Have I piqued your curiosity yet? Read on to find out more.
Protein is satiating
Protein is incredibly satiating because it takes a while for your stomach to digest. There’s many studies that have found protein to be the most satiating macronutrient, more so than carbs or fat.
So it’s natural that eating a higher protein diet helps you lose weight. If you’re satisfied and full, then it makes it easier to eat less food and therefore less calories.
Conversely, if you eat a lower protein diet, you’ll naturally eat more food in order to feel full. If you’re dieting, this makes it very hard to stay on track. No one likes being hungry and adding dieting to the equation results in disaster.
So how does this work? The presence of protein in your stomach stimulates a hormone that slows digestion. Your body is obviously very smart, and the presence of other foods, like fibrous vegetables, also have an impact on how fast your stomach works.
When your food moves more slowly through your intestines, you’re absorbing more nutrients. What comes in doesn’t go out in the order it was consumed. For example, carbohydrates will move through your system faster than proteins and fats.
Protein preserves muscle
Losing weight is a very complex experience. Our bodies are so awesome, yet incredibly complicated. That can make weight loss not as straight forward as many make it seem (me included).
When you’re in a caloric deficit, your body doesn’t just run off your fat. Depending on what you eat and how you exercise, your body will use different proportions of muscle and fat as energy. That’s how you lose body mass: when your body doesn’t get all the energy it needs from food, it cannibalizes muscle or fat. And yes, I just called your body a cannibal.
But when you lose weight, you don’t want to just be a smaller version of yourself right? You want to be lean, without jiggle and a little muscle definition would be nice too. Protein consumption along with strength training is how you can tip the scales in your favor during weight loss.
Your body needs a significant amount of protein and glycogen to carry out bodily functions. Besides water, proteins are the second highest component of our bodies. If you’re trying to lose weight and consume less food on a general scale, your body still thinks it needs the same amount of energy to keep the machine running.
Remember: our body always tries to stay the same
After depleting all the energy that’s stored in your liver, muscle stores are one of the next places your body turns for energy. Which brings me to the reason you need to eat a higher protein diet during weight loss.
Eating more protein prevents your body from cannibalizing existing muscle for energy, nutrients, and bodily functions. I don’t want to simplify a very complex process too much, but it’s true that eating more protein helps you lose a much greater percentage of fat during weight loss. Here’s two more studies to add to your summer reading list. Study 1. Study 2.
Protein makes your skin awesome
As I mentioned earlier, proteins are major building blocks for the body. Your body uses protein to repair and build tissue. It’s in your bones, skin, nails, hair, cartilage, blood and muscles. Proteins are used to make chemicals like hormones and enzymes. Cells regenerate constantly in your body and protein is a main ingredient.
A unique fact about protein, is that your body can’t store it like it stores fat and carbohydrates. There’s no reservoir to draw from when your body needs it.
Now obviously you need other nutrients for good skin and nails, but providing your body with adequate protein facilitates faster cell regeneration. Faster cell regeneration means glowing skin, less wrinkles, strong nails and healthy hair.
Let’s get a little scientific. Proteins are made of organic compounds called amino acids. There are eight specific amino acids that you can only get from animal products, whether it be eggs, dairy or meat. Your body needs these eight amino acids to a varying degree and they can’t be found in their complete form anywhere other than animal products.
This is one of the reasons that vegetarians and vegans sometimes have issues with breaking nails or thinning hair. It’s hard for them to get the amino acids that come from meat and that deficiency shows up in their skin and nails.
Some people like to stir the pot. Here’s two incorrect claims.
Kidney Disease. There’s been claims that eating a high protein diet is hard on your kidneys, requiring them to work overtime. Protein restriction is helpful for people who already have kidney problems, but extra protein has never shown to cause problems in otherwise healthy individuals.
Osteoporosis. Some have claimed that eating a high protein diet leaches calcium from your bones. This is anything but true. In fact, scientists have found that eating a higher protein diet actually increases your bone health and calcium retention.
So how much protein do I actually eat?
Eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This can be hard at first, so work up to it slowly. Start adding in eggs at breakfast, protein smoothies for snacks and be sure to have meat with lunch and dinner. I often have nighttime casein protein with a small scoop of ice cream for dessert.
I’m not telling you to eat only protein. Carbohydrates and fats are really important for your body as well, but let’s save that discussion for another time.
If you have questions, feel free to email me or ask in the comments below. I love helping people get fit and would be happy to chat with you!