January 21st, 2013
You’ve probably read it or heard it enough number of times that protein helps you lose weight. This article is aimed at the curious mind that wants to know how protein helps you lose weight. First off, just in case you are not aware, protein will help you lose weight but only when consumed in conjunction with increased physical activity. Without the increased physical activity, it will not help you lose weight but it will probably help you avoid adding more weight.
The connection between protein and physical activity
When you increase your activity level, there is more wear and tear of muscle and tissue. The body requires more maintenance and the primary ingredient it needs to complete the maintenance is protein. Muscle and tissue maintenance itself requires energy and if required the body will tap into fat reserves thus helping you lose weight.
Also, when you exercise or increase your physical activity, your metabolism rate increases i.e. your body utilizes more energy and even taps into your fat reserves thus helping you lose weight. To continue to exercise and maintain your higher activity levels, your muscles need to be in a constant state of readiness and for this, protein is required. Without adequate protein intake, there will be no speedy muscle repair and you could injure yourself.
The increased levels of physical activity will usually call upon a certain set of muscle group(s) to provide the movement and power. The body quickly adapts and within a couple of days, strengthens those muscle groups. Muscles require energy to be maintained. The more muscle you add, the more energy is required to maintain them, i.e. your metabolic rate increases. There is less energy left for conversion to fat and you remain lean.
Protein takes longer to digest and requires your stomach and intestines to work harder, i.e. utilize more energy. Once again, this results in less left over energy and therefore less chances of fat accumulation.
If you consume protein without the exercise component i.e. only protein consumption with no increased physical activity, it will not help you lose weight but it will probably help you prevent adding more fat.
Protein as an important weight loss component
Losing weight usually requires a high-nutrition, low calorie diet. To support this regime, you need to add protein to your diet because protein ensures that you lose fat not muscle. Protein in your diet can come from a variety of sources – both plant and animal.
Since protein takes longer to chew and digest, it gives our stomach the necessary time (around 20 minutes from the moment you start eating), to send the ‘full’ signal to our brain. If we pay heed to the signal and stop eating, it will prevent over-eating.
To lose weight, increase your physical activity and ensure that a third of your diet is protein. Your total daily calorie intake should be around 1,700 per day. This should probably result in a 300 to 500 calorie deficit which your body will make up by breaking down fats and thus helping you lose weight.
One reader had asked us if they can substitute the meal with a full protein diet and whether it will enhance weight loss. Please don’t. Instead we recommend you adopt the U.S.D.A approved ‘MyPlate’ balanced diet plan i.e. fruits, veggies, dairy products, whole grains and proteins.
If for any reason you are unable to add protein to your diet (e.g. when camping), carry a bottle of protein powder. It will suffice until you can add natural or animal sources of protein.
Read more about healthy diet plans at preciseportions.com.