I first became interested in protein several years ago when it seems like all my colleagues were on one or the other of the popular high protein diets. What I noticed is that when they were on the diet they lost weight quickly, but as soon as they ate any carbs, the weight came back even more quickly. So what’s special about protein and weight loss? Here is everything you need to know about protein and weight loss, especially how much protein a day to lose weight.
I’ll share the research on protein for weight loss, as well as my personal experience with protein from my 80-pound weight loss.
Okay, let’s dig in.
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What is Protein?
Protein is one of the macronutrients or macros and it’s essential to building muscle. As someone who is trying to lose weight, I know how important muscle is to weight loss since muscle burns more calories than fat. But there are still more we need to know about the connection between protein and weight loss.
Most of us are familiar with the common sources of protein – meat, chicken, fish. But beans and nuts are also excellent sources of protein. When I think of the popular restaurant meals or even fast food, it’s clear that we eat a fair amount of protein. And apparently, most of us get enough protein.
But how can protein help us with weight loss?
Protein and Weight Loss
Protein may be the single most important macronutrient for weight loss and a healthy body. There are five well-researched benefits of protein for weight loss. The advantages include helping with satiety, muscle loss, maintaining weight loss and metabolism.
1. Protein Increases Satiety
The biggest advantage of eating protein for weight loss is that it helps you feel full. And I have found that when you feel full, you are more likely to continue to eat healthy foods (in other words, stay on your diet) and lose weight.
There are many studies which prove protein’s effects on satiety (feeling of fullness). One study in 2014 compared people who consumed three different types of afternoon snacks; high protein yoghurt, high fat crackers, or high-fat chocolate. Those who ate the high protein yoghurt were less hungry in the afternoon. Obviously, if you are less hungry, you won’t eat and consequently eat less.
2. Protein Prevents Muscle Loss
The other advantage of protein and weight loss is that it helps prevent muscle loss while you are losing weight. Unfortunately, it is very normal to lose both fat and muscle when you are dieting but eating more protein will help prevent the loss of your hard-earned muscles.
One study in 2013 found that dieters who doubled their protein consumption lost more fat and maintained more muscle mass than those who ate the recommended daily requirement. This is great news for all dieters. And one of the benefits of protein for weight loss.
3. Protein Reduces Cravings
Another correlation between protein and weight loss is that it reduces cravings. There are several studies which demonstrated that protein can also decrease your cravings. One study found that overweight men reduced their cravings by 60 percent and late-night snacking by 50 percent when they increased their protein consumption to 25%.
Another study discovered that overweight adolescent girls decreased their cravings and late-night snacking when they ate a high protein breakfast.
Most of us who struggle with our weight also struggle with cravings. I had major cravings and especially suffered with late-night binge eating. However, I have found that eating more protein has helped with my cravings and binge eating at night.
4. Protein Helps Maintain Weight Loss
Losing weight is hard but keeping the weight off is even harder. But have no fear, the final advantage of protein for weight loss is that it can help you maintain your weight loss.
Participants in one study reduced the weight regain with only a small increase in protein, from 15 percent to 18 percent.
Although I would like to lose more weight, I feel that protein is truly helping me maintain my 80-pound weight loss.
Also read Best 5 Foods For Weight Loss
5. Protein Increases Metabolism
Although several studies have found a high protein can increase your metabolism and help you lose weight, the increase found is usually low and about 80 – 100 calories per day. Therefore it will take you at least 350 days to lose one pound!
Also read Can You Really Increase Your Metabolism?
However, one small encouraging study found participants eating a high protein diet burned 260 more calories a day than those on a low protein diet. If this is true for you, you can lose one pound in approximately 13 days just by eating more protein.
How Much Protein to a Day to Lose Weight
So we now are clear of the advantages of protein for weight loss, but how much protein for weight loss do we actually need?
Most experts recommend that protein should be 10% to 35% of your daily calories. However, you should be on the higher end of the range if you are on a weight loss journey.
Research has shown that individuals who are trying to lose weight who ate 25 percent to 30 percent of their calories from lean protein (one more time, lean protein) daily lost more body fat and burned more calories at rest! This means you are burning more when you are doing nothing!
You can use MyFitnessPal to see how many calories you should consume to lose one pound (or more) per week. MyFitnessPal will also give you your daily nutrition goals and you will see how much protein for weight loss you need.
It automatically defaults to 20% protein, but you can edit it. As we saw from the research, to use protein for weight loss you should increase your protein intake to 25% to 30%. So go ahead and increase your protein to at least 25%
And yes, if you eat a higher percentage of protein, you will have lower your percentage of the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat).
Log everything you eat for a week or two. After which you will have a better idea of the right percent of protein, carbohydrates and fat for you. MyFitnessPal will also show you the number of grams that corresponds to the percentage of protein and other macronutrients.
Take a look at my Daily Nutrition Goals
As you can see, I should aim to eat about 162 grams of protein for weight loss. So what does this mean? Here is a quick guide to high protein foods for weight loss and their grams and calories.
High Protein Foods For Weight Loss Grams and Calories
Here are some excellent sources of protein that you can eat more of or consider adding to your diet. My favorite protein foods for weight loss are chicken, salmon and beans. Also, eggs are not only a great high protein breakfast, but boiled eggs make a delicious snack even when you are on-the-go.
If you are looking for a high protein fruit, check out guava. Most people say that it tastes like a combination of pear and strawberry. Guava is not that common so you will have to look for them at special or ethnic markets. I get mine from an Asian supermarket.
And yes, you can have high protein bread. Look for sprouted whole grain. My favourite is Ezekiel bread. You can usually find it in the freezer section of your supermarket.
I did not include protein shakes on the list since most experts agree that although replacing a meal with a protein shake can help you lose weight, ideally you should get your protein from whole foods.
Since we are also trying to lose weight we also need to pay attention to the number of calories in each serving. Also, note the serving size since most of us eat a bigger portion than listed below. You will have to balance the grams of protein with your calories.
However, it doesn’t matter what diet you are on, or how much protein you eat. If you eat too many calories for your body you will not lose weight and may even gain weight. In fact, any excess calories you eat will be stored as fat.
Finally, it is best to have an accurate measure of your portion size. It is relatively inexpensive to invest in a good kitchen scale and measuring cups and spoons. This is what I have and use every single day.
|Protein||Serving Size||Grams of Protein||Calories|
|Turkey breast||3 ounces||26||138|
|Chicken breast||3 ounces||26||142|
|Beef (grass-fed)||4 ounces||26||133|
|Greek yoghurt (2%)||7 ounces||20||150|
|Salmon (wild)||3 ounces||17||121|
|Tuna (can)||3 ounces||16||73|
|Cottage cheese||½ cup||13||100|
|Tofu (firm)||¾ cup||12||150|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 ounce||9||158|
|Milk (2%)||1 cup||9||124|
|Peas||1 cup cooked||8.5||118|
|Bread, sprouted whole grain||2 slices||8-12||138-220|
|Gruyere cheese||1 ounce||8||117|
|Peanut butter||2 tablespoons||7||191|
|Sunflower seeds||¼ cup||7||204|
|Spinach||1 cup cooked||5||41|
|Chia seeds||1 ounce||5||138|
Protein for Weight Loss
So now you know how protein can help you with your weight loss, how much protein a day for weight loss is needed and you have a list of protein foods for weight loss. There is no magic pill for weight loss, but protein is as close to a magic pill as you can get.
Also read Foods Rich in Fiber for Weight Loss
No one thing will be the solution to losing weight, but I have found that increasing my protein intake to be very helpful in my 80-pound weight loss. The key to weight loss for me is to not be hungry. Simply put, if I’m not hungry I can stay on my ‘diet’ for life. And protein really does help me feel full and is one of the reasons for my weight loss success.
Start eating more protein for weight loss today!