Why Protein is Critical for Fat Loss

After water, protein is the most abundant substance in your body. About one-fifth of your body weight is protein alone. 

Protein exists in every one of your trillions of cells. We literally cannot live without it. It’s one of the most basic building blocks of your body, critical for developing bones, cartilage, muscles, and skin. 

As soon as protein diminishes from your diet, your wellness and weight loss take a hard hit. Today, we’ll answer 5 questions to show why protein is particularly important for your overall health and weight loss efforts.

How Does Protein Affects Weight Gain and Loss?

Each macronutrient plays a critical role to keep us alive and healthy. But protein is the king of the macronutrients. In fact, the word protein means “first rank.” 

If you’re interested in fat loss, you better keep protein on its throne. Here’s why:

  • Protein is the most satiating macronutrient

    Out of all the macronutrients, protein takes the longest to digest. So, it keeps you fuller for longer. If you include protein in each meal or snack you eat, you won’t feel those annoying munchies hours afterward. Reach for high-protein breakfasts, like eggs, greek yogurt, or protein smoothies. Add chicken, seeds, and chickpeas to a salad for a high-protein lunch. Reach for snacks that combine carbs and protein, like carrots and hummus or apples and seed butter.

  • Protein hacks your hunger hormones

    Protein’s ability to satisfy you is twofold. In addition to taking longer to digest, protein also combats and decreases ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.” Healthy eating and weight loss should never feel like you’re on a deprivation diet. Protein allows you to cut back on empty calories and keeps you feeling full and satisfied. Skip the hunger pains—pack in more protein each day. 

  • Protein increases muscle mass

    Our bodies use the proteins in the food we eat to rebuild our bones, cartilage, and skin. While protein is found in every tissue of your body, it’s extremely dense in muscle. Increasing the protein in your diet will give you greater strength, improve your muscle mass gains and preservation, and limit age-related muscle loss.

    Without protein, we’d be incapable of building and growing our lean muscle mass. After a workout, our body uses protein to repair and strengthen the muscles we just exhausted. If you’re completing any strength training or bodyweight exercise, make sure you’re supplying your body with enough protein. 

  • Protein boosts metabolism

    Some people are born with a naturally speedy metabolism. A faster metabolism allows you to burn more calories effortlessly throughout the day, making weight loss and maintenance much easier.

    High protein intake has been shown to significantly boost metabolism and, therefore, increase the number of calories you can burn each day. Eating more protein allows your body to build more muscle mass, and the more muscle mass you have on your body, the more calories your body burns. Additionally, because protein takes longer for your body to digest, it takes more calories to digest protein than other macronutrients. 

  • Protein shifts what your body’s burns

    When you are consistently eating adequate protein, your body begins to burn fat more easily. Our bodies depend on protein to survive. When we don’t supply our bodies with enough protein, our bodies make it a top priority to search and find what it can from within, depleting our muscles, connective tissues, bones, and skin.

    If, on the other hand, you provide your body with adequate protein, it can focus on gathering energy from the fat stores throughout your body. In this way, you can ensure that your body burns fat rather than muscle for energy. 

Your body weight is directly affected by the adequacy and quality of the protein in your daily diet. Next, we’ll look into how much protein you should be eating daily to optimize weight loss. 

How Much Protein is Optimal for Fat Loss?

Protein is the one macronutrient that we must consume in adequate amounts every day! Many people turn to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) to know how much protein they should eat daily. However, this number actually informs us of the minimum amount of protein we need in order to prevent lean body mass loss. 

The optimal daily intake is actually quite higher than the RDA. To help your body function at its best and lose body fat healthily, protein needs to make up 20-30% of your daily food intake. That’s about 100-150 grams of protein daily for a 2000-calorie diet. 

If you’re interested in knowing how to calculate how many grams of protein you personally need each day, follow these steps:

  • Start with the number of calories you consume each day
  • Determine what 20-30% of that number is
  • Divide that number by 4 (there are four calories in each gram of protein)
  • The resulting number will tell you how many grams of protein you should eat daily

What Causes Low Protein? 

Protein is made up of 22 amino acids, nine of which are essential. Our bodies can’t produce these nine amino acids, so we have to make sure we eat foods with these amino acids daily. 

Under-eating is the number one reason why we don’t get enough protein. While under-eating temporarily results in weight loss, this lifestyle almost always brings worse health and more weight gain in the long run. 

Under-eating causes muscle and tissue loss and a slower metabolism. Plus, it makes our protein intake plummet. 

What Happens When We Don’t Eat Enough Protein?

There are no readily available protein stores in the body. So when you don’t consume enough protein, the body is forced to find it in your muscles and tissues.

You have to eat protein every day. The body can’t store protein like it can store carbohydrates and fat. 

Without protein, we wouldn’t have the physical ability to grow or heal. Proteins are responsible for these processes, as well as forming cell structure, carrying oxygen, protecting against disease, growing hair and nails, maintaining eyesight, and providing energy. 

How Can You Put an End to the Protein Hunt?

Give your body the protein it needs so that it can stop searching for it through other means (a.k.a. by depleting your muscles and tissues). Provide your body with plenty of protein every day so that it can put its efforts toward fat loss. 

  • Start your day with a healthy protein shake
  • Cook with protein powders (like collagen) – add it to baked goods, drinks, smoothies, and soups
  • Include animal proteins, if that fits your personal preferences, because these proteins are more similar to our proteins and, therefore, can be used by our bodies more easily
  • Incorporate more healthy, high-protein recipes into your weekly routine (click the link to find my 52 favorite recipes I personally eat routinely!) 

Protein—the king of macros—can do wonders for your weight loss and overall wellness. Stop skimping on this satiating macronutrient. Sample a few of my recipes and see how satisfying healthy living really is. 

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