The power of protein
Okay, so you've heard protein is king in the fitness world, but you're not aiming to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. So do you still need it? Yes, of course you do! In addition to its muscle-building benefits, protein provides a plethora of positives that will further fuel your weight loss transformation!
Several studies have demonstrated that a high-protein diet results in superior weight loss compared to a more traditional low-protein, higher-carbohydrate approach.1-3 Protein takes quite a bit of energy to be broken down, digested, and absorbed. As you can imagine, this process can take quite some time, which results in slow digestion. The end result: You feel full for a prolonged period of time, making it less likely you'll give into temptations or veer off your nutrition plan throughout the day.
This digestion and absorption process is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF can be defined as the energy (think calories) required to carry out digestion and absorption. Protein has a high TEF—much higher than carbohydrates or fat—which means it requires more calories to be properly digested and absorbed. The reason high-protein diets may be so successful for weight loss is that they result in more calories burned and less food eaten—a win-win for weight loss!
Choosing a high-protein diet will also help you preserve muscle mass while reducing body fat. When you're in a caloric deficit—which is necessary for weight loss—your body may resort to breaking down its own muscle mass to use as energy. Consuming protein can help spare your hard-earned gains.
A consistent supply of protein—20-30 grams every 3-4 hours—significantly reduces your risk of muscle loss while dieting. Maintaining muscle while ridding yourself of excess fat will help you achieve the ideal physique you desire.
* Ratings as of article's date of publication
- Noakes, M., Keogh, J.B., Foster, P.R. & Clifton, P.M. (2005). Effect of an energy-restricted, high-protein, low-fat diet relative to a conventional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet on weight loss, body composition, nutritional status, and markers of cardiovascular health in obese women. American Society for Clinical Nutrition, 81(6), 1298-1306.
- Johnston, C.S., Tjonn, S.L. & Swan, P.D. (2004). High-Protein, Low-Fat Diets Are Effective for Weight Loss and Favorably Alter Biomarkers in Healthy Adults. Journal of Nutrition, 134(3), 586-591.
- Layman, D.K., Boileau, R.A., Erickson, D.J., Painter, J.E., Shiue, H., Sather, C. & Christou, D.D. (2003). A Reduced Ratio of Dietary Carbohydrate to Protein Improves Body Composition and Blood Lipid Profiles during Weight Loss in Adult Women. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 133(2), 411-417.