Is a High-Protein Diet Best for Weight Loss?
Protein may increase metabolism and provide other weight loss benefits
Is it time to try a high-protein diet for weight loss? Many healthy eaters eat protein to boost metabolism. And eating protein provides other weight loss benefits as well. But before you invest any time or money into a high-protein diet to lose weight, make sure you get the facts about protein to make sure your program is successful.
Why Eat Protein for Weight Loss?
Eating a diet that includes plenty of lean protein provides several benefits when you’re trying to lose weight.
- Protein helps you to feel full. Including protein in your meals and snacks can help you to feel more full and satisfied after you’re done eating. This feeling of fullness may help you to eat less throughout the day.
- Protein builds muscle. Protein helps you build and maintain muscle mass. A strong body not only performs better throughout daily activities, but the muscles that shape an attractive figure also burn more calories than fat, even at rest.
- Eating protein may improve your diet. When you plan a meal around a lean source of protein, you have less space on your plate for foods that aren’t healthy. And learning to eat different types of protein may improve your diet as well. If you eat tuna, for example, you not only benefit from the protein in the fish but you also benefit from the healthy fat it provides.
- Eating protein burns more calories. You burn a few extra calories when you eat protein because your body has to work harder to chew and digest the food. Scientists call this the thermic effect of food. Keep in mind, however, that the number of extra calories is small so you shouldn’t create an entire weight loss program based solely on this benefit.
How Much Protein to Lose Weight?
Any healthy diet for weight loss or wellness should include a balance of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein. The amount of protein you should eat depends on a few factors including your age, gender, body size and activity level.
For healthy adults, the recommended dietary allowance for protein (RDA) is .8g/kg/day.
That means at a minimum every day you should eat slightly less than one gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kilograms) you should eat at least 54 grams of protein each day.
If you exercise for weight loss, you may want to consume more protein. A position statement developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) the Dietitians of Canada (DC), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that exercisers should consume between 1.2 – 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
But if those numbers leave you confused, don’t worry. There is an easier way to figure out how much protein to eat to lose weight and keep your body healthy. Government sources and nutrition experts recommend that you consume between 10-35% of your total calories from protein.
If you use a calorie tracking app or website to count calories, it’s easy to check your daily protein intake. Almost every popular diet tool automatically and counts grams of protein and also the percentage of calories that comes from protein.
High-Protein Diets for Weight Loss
So are high protein diets any better for weight loss? While many dieters lose weight successfully on high-protein diets like Atkins or the popular South Beach Diet, they don’t always work for everyone.
High protein diets are generally those that recommend that over 20% of your total calories come from protein. Sounds reasonable, right? But, if you’re eating more protein, that means you’re eating less carbohydrate to keep your calories in balance. For many dieters, eating less fruit, bread and pasta is difficult and they quit their program as a result.
The best diet for you is the diet that you can stick to. For some dieters this is a high-protein weight loss plan. If eating more protein helps you to eat less all day and build a stronger, more active body then it may be the best program for you.
But remember that calories matter most when you’re trying to slim down. So track your total calories and protein to lose weight and keep the pounds off for good.
George A. Bray, MD; Steven R. Smith, MD; Lilian de Jonge, PhD; Hui Xie, PhD; Jennifer Rood, PhD; Corby K. Martin, PhD; Marlene Most, PhD; Courtney Brock, MS, RD; Susan Mancuso, BSN, RN; Leanne M. Redman, PhD. ” Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating.” Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(1):47-55.