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Protein and weight loss

As you are trying to lose weight, increasing the amount of protein you eat can help you be successful. I read a really interesting article on Yahoo health, Will Extra Protein Help You Lose Weight?, which shared the results of a number of weigh loss studies.  Here were some of the findings:

  • Greater consumption of protein led to greater losses of weight and fat compared with a diet higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein.
  • Women in these studies who had insulin resistance or diabetes had significantly greater losses of both weight and abdominal fat compared with women with these same conditions who were on a higher carbohydrate, lower protein diet.

Why is this the case? Well, eating protein can help you feel fuller for longer, which can result in a lower intake of calories over the course of the day.  Also, eating protein releases a hormone that is believed to decrease hunger.  Protein also provides essential amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of muscle, blood, skin, nails and internal organs.

How much protein do you need in a day?  The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is 60g a day.  It is important to choose lean sources of protein, so you don’t increase your risk of heart disease.  Great sources of lean protein include: beans, greek yogurt, hummus, veggie burgers, chicken/turkey (without the skin), nuts, and low-fat cheeses.

It is also important to try and eat BOTH protein and carbohydrates with each of your meals and snacks.  In Bill Phillips’ Body for Life book, he explains that eating the right combination of foods can “help feed your muscles by providing both the amino acids from protein, along with carbohydrates, which help ‘shuttle’ that protein into cells.”  He goes on to cite a number of studies to support the importance of eating protein and carbs together:

  • In a study from the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that eating both protein and carbs with each meal helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin and tended to decrease body fat, cholesterol, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • In a study from the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers found that balancing carbs and protein in each meal benefits your MIND as well as your body.  “Balanced eaters experienced better overall cognitive/mental performance compared to test subjects who ate meals that were not balanced”.
  • In a study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate a balance of proteins and carbs with each meal had more energy and less fatigue.  Their conclusion was that balanced meals promote stable energy and greater endurance.
  • In other studies, researchers have found that people who eat a balance of protein and carbohydrates have better digestion and absorption of nutrients and a higher ‘thermic effect’ (fat-burning effect) from each meal.

So, if you don’t know how much protein you are consuming in a day, it would probably be worthwhile to track it for a day or two.  If you fall significantly short of 60g, you may want to find ways to incorporate more protein into your meals and snacks.  Also, when you reach for a carbohydrate snack, make sure to eat a little protein too. For example, have some almonds with that apple.  Or have a cheese stick with your whole wheat crackers.  You may find that your new, improved snack keeps you feeling fuller longer! In turn, this can help you consume less calories and reach your weight loss goal faster.

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