Protein (and a caloric deficit) is the single most important nutrient for weight loss and a better-looking body. A high protein intake boosts metabolism, reduces appetite, and changes several weight-regulating hormones. Here are just a few reasons why.
Protein Changes the levels of several weight regulating hormones.
Your weight is actively controlled by your brain, in an area called the hypothalamus. In order for your brain to establish when and how much to eat, it processes several different types of information. Some of the most important signals to the brain are hormones that change in response to feeding. A higher protein intake raises levels of the satiety (appetite-reducing) hormones GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin, while lowering your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. This leads to a decrease in hunger and is the main reason protein helps you lose weight. It can make you eat fewer calories automatically.
Digesting and Metabolizing Protein Burns Calories
After you eat, some calories are used for the purpose of digesting and metabolizing the food. This is often termed the thermic effect of food (TEF). Although not all sources agree on the precise figures, it is agreed that protein has a much higher thermic effect (20-30%) than carbs (5-10%) or fat (0-3%). If we go with a thermic effect of 30% for protein, this means that 100 calories of protein only end up as 70 usable calories. Protein Makes You Burn More Calories due to the high thermic effect.
Protein May Cut Cravings and Reduce Desire for Late-Night Snacking
Cravings are the dieter’s worst enemy. They are one of the main reasons why people fail on their diets. Those cravings can lead to late-night snacking. Many people who tend to gain weight also get cravings at night, so they snack in the evening. These calories are added on top of the calories they ate during the day. Interestingly, protein can have a powerful effect on both cravings and the desire to snack at night. This again is because protein is more satiating (keeps you feeling satisfied for longer) than carbs or fat.
Protein Helps Prevent Muscle Loss and Metabolic Slowdown
Weight loss doesn’t always equal fat loss. When you lose weight, muscle mass tends to be reduced as well. However, what you really want to lose is body fat, both subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around organs). Losing muscle is a side effect of weight loss that most people don’t want. Another side effect of losing weight is that the metabolic rate tends to decrease. In other words, you end up burning fewer calories than you did before you lost the weight.
Eating plenty of protein can reduce muscle loss, which should help keep your metabolic rate higher as you lose body fat. Strength training is another major factor that can reduce muscle loss and metabolic slowdown when losing weight. For this reason, a high protein intake and heavy strength training are two incredibly important components of an effective fat loss plan.
Not only do they help keep your metabolism high, but they also make sure that what is underneath the fat actually looks good. Without protein and strength training, you may end up looking “skinny-fat” instead of fit and lean.
So don’t skimp on protein at your meals to help you get lean and stay that way. Plenty of protein (and a caloric deficit) is the best route to weight (fat) loss and a better-looking body.