Proteins and Weight Loss – What you need to Know
There are three important macronutrients that we need to eat each day. Carbohydrates, fats (that’s right you NEED fat!) and protein. Protein makes up 20% of our body weight and is found in ALL food groups. When our body breaks up proteins to be absorbed into the body the building blocks are called amino acids. These amino acids are what we use to build that 20% of our body weight!
There are 22 naturally occurring amino acids. Some of them are essential, meaning we need to eat them to survive and some are non-essential. When a food is called a “complete” protein it means that it contains all the nine essential amino acids our body needs. Complete proteins include animal foods like meat and dairy as well as some plant foods like quinoa, buckwheat and soy. Most plant foods are incomplete proteins, but we have traditionally paired them over the years to create complete proteins. (Think beans and rice.)
Digestion of protein starts in the mouth with chewing, but chemical digestion of proteins really takes place mostly in the stomach with hydrochloric acid. It continues in the small intestine where it is absorbed into the blood stream. Amino acids are used in the body to form enzymes, hormones and tissues like muscles. Too little protein is not usually a problem in our society but too much protein can be stored in the liver and on the body as fat!
How Eating Protein Can Help with Weight Loss
- It can help you balance your blood sugar and help you feel full longer. Protein takes longer to digest than simple carbohydrates and sugars. It therefore prevents the sugar high and lows that comes with eating carbohydrates alone. This helps keep our hunger at bay for longer periods of time and makes it less likely that we’ll go back for seconds or thirds! Over the course of a week or months this can add up to some serious calorie savings.
- Protein has a high TEF! The “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. Protein has a higher thermic effect than that of carbohydrates or fats. This means that when you eat protein some of the calorie value that you consume is used by the body to digest the protein into amino acids to be used by the body.
- Eating protein can reduce muscle loss, which can help you keep your metabolic rate higher as you lose body fat. When trying to lose weight most of us are specifically trying to target body fat, both subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around organs). But unfortunately, weight loss doesn't always equal fat loss as muscle is lost as well. On a traditional weight loss diet, metabolism also tends to start to slow and you end up burning fewer and fewer calories and therefore must eat fewer and fewer calories to keep losing weight. By eating protein, you can maintain your metabolic rate and minimize muscle loss! (Note: Adding in some strength training can also reduce muscle loss and metabolic slowdown when losing weight.)
How Much Protein Do I Need?
This is a harder question to answer than you may think! I have done my research and according to most studies, you should aim for about 30% of calorie intake to be from protein for effective for weight loss. Another way of calculating protein intake is to find the number of grams you should be consuming a day. You do this by multiplying your calorie intake by 0.075. For example, on a 2000 calorie diet you would eat 2000 * 0.075 = 150 grams of protein. You can also aim for a certain number based on your weight. For example, aiming for 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass is a common recommendation (1.5 - 2.2 grams per kilogram). I like to use 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean mass for my clients. That is assuming that you know your lean mass.
The bottom line is that if you are struggling to lose weight and can’t figure out what might be holding you back, start recording your food. Make sure you are getting enough calories and enough protein so that you stay full longer, your metabolism keeps burning and your taking advantage of the thermic effect of eating protein!
Do you want to know more? Do you want to get even healthier? Would you like to get to the root issues holding you back from reaching your health and wellness goals?
Let’s chat about how holistic nutrition consulting and health coaching can help you make your own healthy changes so that you can feel your best every single day. Schedule an initial complimentary consultation with me today—or pass this offer on to someone you care about! Visit www.noshoesnutrition.com and sign up for a FREE consultation. I work with women from all over the world individually or in groups so don’t let anything hold you back!