Many people shudder at the sound of the word protein, immediately visualizing the incredible hulk and unnatural looking muscles bulging out of tiny vests. In reality, when it comes to weight loss and weight management, it is actually the secret weapon you need in your artillery.
Well, let’s take a look at just a few of the key benefits.
1. PROTEIN REQUIRES MORE ENERGY TO DIGEST
Yes, you heard this right. You can burn calories digesting food and you can burn more calories by digesting protein specifically. Seeing as digestion doesn’t require too much work on your part, it’s a pretty easy way to get your body to use more energy. In fact, 25 - 30% of the calories found in protein are used to digest it.
2. PROTEIN MAKES YOU FEEL FULL
As protein is more difficult for your body to digest, it means that high protein foods tend to be much more satiating, helping to suppress hunger and prevent cravings. If you’re trying to stick to a calorie deficit, proteins are particularly useful to help you avoid snacking on unhealthy foods and can ensure you don’t exceed your goal.
3. PROTEIN HELPS TO MAINTAIN MUSCLE MASS AND BOOSTS METABOLISM
If you’re a woman reading this and thinking this one only applies to the gym bunnies, think again. Maintaining lean muscle mass is beneficial to anyone trying to lose weight because muscle tissue burns calories. So the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the easier you will find it to burn that pesky fat. And that doesn’t mean you need to go full incredible hulk either. Women can build plenty of muscle without looking bulky and it will also mean that once the fat is off, you will have a nicely toned figure.
GOOD PROTEIN SOURCES
I could bore you with some of the other biological functions protein supports with, like building and repairing body tissues, producing enzymes and hormones and transporting nutrients, but I’m fairly confident I’ve sold it as a highly useful macronutrient already.
So, hopefully more helpful to you, I’ll share some fantastic sources of protein to help you boost your intake and start seeing some of these wonderful effects. This is also with a cost of living crisis in mind, as I’m fairly sure forking out £3 for one protein bar isn’t top of the agenda for most people.
- Red meat (lean beef, lamb)
- White meat (e.g., chicken, turkey)
- Fish (e.g., salmon, cod, tuna, shrimp)
- Dairy products (e.g., Greek yoghurt, milk, cottage cheese, whey protein)
- Nuts (e.g., peanuts, cashews, almonds)
- Seeds (e.g., pumpkin, chia, sunflower, flax)
- Beans and pulses (e.g., lentils, soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas)
- Fruit and vegetables (e.g., avocado, guava, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)
- Grains (e.g., oats, quinoa, whole wheat pasta/rice, couscous)
In general, animal proteins have a higher biological value (how well your body can use the protein) than plant proteins. But that’s not to say that vegetarians and vegans can’t easily meet their protein requirements. The key is to consume a wide variety of plant foods, as amino acids that are lacking in one food will be present in another. In fact, beans on toast is a great example of how to have a full complement of amino acids in one meal.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN IS IDEAL? AND ARE THERE ANY HACKS TO HELP ME MEET MY GOAL?
Most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day. For the average woman, this is 45g.
You do not have to stick to one protein source in every meal. Try combining chicken with turkey bacon or tuna with egg. Not only will it increase your protein count, but you’ll also have more interesting flavour profiles and textures to look forward to.
Add in your non-animal based proteins to meals, such as beans, nuts and lentils. This can help you add some protein to your meals, without leaving you feeling like you’ve monstered an entire animal farm.
Make sure your snacks are high protein as well as your meals. Some of the best protein sources for a snack include cottage cheese, almonds, Greek yoghurt and milk. Again, it’s optimal if you can combine some of these such as nuts and yoghurt to help you hit your goal.
Although it may take a bit more planning to incorporate in your diet, protein is definitely not something to avoid and as we’ve seen can play a fantastic role in aiding with fat loss.