How Protein Foods Help With Weight Loss

Caleb Ihuarulam

Caleb Ihuarulam

For many people, losing a few pounds can be challenging. You may have tried different diet plans or even starved before realising that sticking to a calorie deficit diet can be challenging. Incorporating protein foods into your diet is a very underrated hack nobody told you about.

Proteins are macronutrients responsible for the structure, proper function, and regulation of your body’s cells. Several studies have found that consuming more protein can help reduce your body weight.

Now, let’s explore how exactly protein foods help with weight loss.

How protein helps you lose weight

Proteins build and maintain your tissues, bones, muscles, and skin. Aside from building muscle mass, protein foods can benefit your weight loss journey in some ways. Some of these include:

●     Boosts metabolism

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. When you eat food, your body requires energy to break down, digest, absorb, and store the nutrients in your intestines. This phenomenon is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). This energy measured in calories needed for the metabolism, absorption, and storage of nutrients in the intestine is diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). In other words, protein has a higher TEF –  it takes more calories to break down protein than carbs or fats, boosting your metabolism.

Studies suggest that 20%–30%  of protein calories are burned during digestion. Fats have the lowest thermic effect of 0%–3%, followed by carbohydrates at 5%–10%.

●     Controls your appetite

Studies show that eating protein makes you feel full and reduces your appetite. This happens because proteins regulate the hormones that affect hunger and satisfaction.

This is how it works – proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates and fats. When your body breaks down proteins, ghrelin, the hunger hormone decreases. At the same time, your body releases glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), cholecystokinin (CCK), and peptide tyrosine-tyrosine (PYY). These hormones secreted in the gut stimulate the vagus nerve, telling your brain you are satisfied.

Additionally, DIT increases when you eat a high-protein diet. This naturally leads to a decrease in food intake and weight loss. A review showed that satisfaction increases after you eat meals with 25% to 81% protein content.

●     Maintain Lean Muscle Mass

When you lose weight, you want to lose the fat and retain the muscle mass. However, that is not usually the case. Protein foods help you build and maintain muscle mass, especially when on a calorie-deficit diet. They contribute to a higher BMR and more calories burned. Your muscle is a tissue that remains active metabolically, meaning it burns calories even at rest. So, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the number of calories your body burns to function.

Animal Protein Foods

Meat, poultry, and fish are some of the best protein sources. However, lean meat is a healthier option if you are trying to avoid excess fat and calories.

  • Chicken Breast: This is unarguably the part of chicken with the least fat and calories.
  • Salmon: This boneless fish contains protein and healthy fats – omega-3 fatty acids. They not only aid weight loss but have antioxidants and improve overall health.
  • Eggs: These are a breakfast staple that can be enjoyed anytime. It is versatile and can be cooked in many ways.
  • Greek Yogurt is a milk derivative with a thick, creamy texture. You can enjoy it as a quick breakfast meal or afternoon snack. Feel free to add fresh fruit, granola or oats for extra flavour and fibre.

Plant Proteins Foods

If you want to start eating a vegan or vegetarian diet, plant-based proteins are your best bet. Some plant protein foods include:

  • Legumes: Beans and lentils belong to the legume family and are some of the most affordable protein sources. Half a cup of lentils contains 8.84g of protein.
  • Oats: These whole grains are famous for their fibre content and protein.
  • Nuts: Peanuts and almonds are pretty amazing. Half a cup of peanuts and almonds contain about 20.5 g and 16.5g of protein, respectively. Peanuts also contain healthy fats and can be converted into peanut butter, which serves as a spread for sandwiches. Almonds also have a good amount of vitamin E, which boosts eye and skin health.
  • Seeds: Chia seeds contain about 2g of protein alongside omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. You can soak them in milk to make a pudding, combine them with yoghurt as a breakfast meal or add them to a smoothie.
  • Potatoes: They contain about 8g per serving. Potatoes are rich in vitamin C, and potassium are essential nutrients.

In conclusion, proteins are underrated nutrients for weight loss. They keep you feeling fuller for a long time, boost your metabolism, and help you build muscle mass, all contributing to healthy weight management. So, incorporate protein-rich foods into your diet as much as you can. From lean meat to plant-based foods, you have a protein option. Remember, weight loss is a journey, so be patient and focus on eating a balanced protein-rich diet.

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Caleb Ihuarulam

Caleb Ihuarulam

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