Protein intake is often considered to be the cornerstone of body transformation, and for good reason. Protein is the building block of muscles, bones, blood, skin and organs. It’s also responsible for transporting nutrients around your body and helping with cellular energy production.
Even when we’re in a calorie deficit protein can help you lose fat and preserve muscle, which is why most fitness experts recommend consuming 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day, especially if you’re trying to shed fat and reveal your lean physique.
That’s the theory anyway! So how do we make sure we get enough protein without going overboard? And how does protein affect hunger, cravings and fullness? Here are 4 reasons to help you get the most out of your protein.
Reason 1: Food volume can fool our stomachs into feeling fuller
When researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands fed two groups of women a meal consisting of either 500 calories (150 grams) or 800 calories (225 grams) of protein, the women who ate the larger amount of protein felt fuller afterwards and reported a lower desire to eat.
This was despite both groups eating the exact same number of calories! And there were no differences in ghrelin (the ‘hunger hormone’) either. The results? Eating more volume is key for feeling satisfied on a meal.
The Maastricht University study highlights how our appetite can be influenced by the amount of energy we consume, regardless of the food source. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that eating protein is less satisfying than fat or carbs per calorie intake and may even decrease the fullness-inducing hormone, GLP-1.
Now when it comes to weight loss, the volume of food you consume matters more than its nutrient composition. To make sure this hunger factor is working for you, try adding as much volume as possible with your protein foods. How? By choosing the leanest cuts of meat and opting for high-volume ingredients such as quinoa, lentils and beans.
Reason 2: Protein keeps you in a calorie deficit for longer
Protein is great for burning more fat because it takes much longer for the body to metabolise protein than fat or carbs. This means that when we consume more protein our bodies are able to stay in a calorie deficit for longer which boosts weight loss.
Protein is also better at controlling blood sugar levels than carbs, which means we have less of a chance of experiencing an energy crash and mood swings (e.g. low serotonin levels). In fact, one study found that protein-rich foods helped to boost people’s mood for up to ten hours afterwards! A strong immune system is also crucial for weight loss.
Reason 3: Protein helps you tone up and shape up!
If you’re trying to lose fat, then getting your muscles toned and tight is just as important as losing the flab! Research suggests that people who consume a higher amount of protein in their diet are less likely to develop muscle loss while in a calorie deficit.
This is because protein has the ability to preserve muscle when you’re on a calorie restricted diet and also increase your body’s fat burning potential. That’s why studies have found that increasing our protein intake can lead to an increase in metabolic rate of almost 30%!
Reason 4: Protein makes it easier to stick to a healthy diet
Many people find it difficult to meet their protein requirement each day. In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health says that only 68% of women and 77% of men in America consume enough protein on a daily basis.
However, if you’re having problems with getting enough protein here are some top tips to help you hit your daily quota:
1. Eat lower-protein meals at home and higher-protein foods when dining out (for example, a piece of grilled chicken with a large salad).
2. Use protein shakes, powders or yogurt in smoothies to boost your protein intake on busy days.
3. Limit the volume of protein you consume on any one day. For example, try to get 40 grams of protein in your breakfast, 40 grams at lunch and a further 30 (or more) grams for dinner.
Every extra gram, every day will help you achieve your goal weight!
For more great weight loss tips, check our other articles.