Protein: Your Secret Weapon for Weight Loss

Protein for weight loss and muscle gain

With all of my weight loss clients, we look very closely at protein intake to help with keeping (or growing) muscle and to also help control hunger when in a dieting phase.

What is Protein?

Protein is a fundamental component of all cells in the body. It is composed of smaller units called amino acids. When we consume foods rich in proteins, our bodies break them down into these amino acids, which are then used to build and repair tissue and to perform various other tasks. In essence, proteins and amino acids are essential for the health and maintenance of the body.

Now the boring science bit is done, let’s get to the interesting bit… so, how does this help you to lose weight and what should you eat?

The Protein Connection: Taming Hunger

Ever felt like your stomach is playing a never-ending drum solo, no matter how much you eat? Say hello to protein—your hunger-fighting hero. Unlike sugary snacks that vanish into thin air, protein sticks around in your tummy for longer, helping to keep you feeling fuller and more satisfied. The more satiated you feel, the less hungry you feel.

Metabolism Magic: Burning More Calories

Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fats. When consumed, protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) compared to carbohydrates and fats, meaning it requires more energy to be metabolised. But what do all these big sounding words actually mean?!

Well, the TEF of food is like your body’s “cost” for digesting what you eat; some foods make your body work harder and use up more energy to break them down. When something is metabolised, it means your body is breaking it down to use it for energy and other bodily functions, like turning food into fuel to keep you going.

The body burns about 20-30% of the protein’s caloric value during digestion, whereas carbohydrates and fats utilise approximately 5-10% and 0-3%, respectively. As the TEF is much higher for protein, it means you can potentially burn more calories through digestion each day, leading to an increased daily calorie burn if you eat a more protein dense diet. Every little helps when losing weight.

Building a Leaner You

Losing weight isn’t just about seeing a smaller number on the scale—it’s about building a healthier, leaner version of yourself. Protein plays a starring role in this transformation. It’s the building block your body needs to repair and grow muscles, giving you that toned, fit look you’re aiming for (consider introducing strength training exercises to support this though – this can be at home or in the gym).

Sources of Protein

  • Birds like chicken and turkey
  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Sea produce – such as fish, prawns, oysters, clams, crab and scallops
  • Dairy items – including milk, different kinds of cheese (notably cottage cheese), and various yoghurts
  • Pulses – encompassing a variety of beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soy products like tofu
  • Assorted nuts and their butters, along with seeds – including almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, and a range of seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame
  • Eggs – all  varieties
  • Protein products such as protein powder (although try to favour “real” food as a rule)

How Much Protein is Enough Each Day?

So, how do you make protein work its magic for you? Well, the good news is that you don’t need to start munching on chicken breasts all day. Just make sure to include a source of protein in each meal. You’re not aiming for a protein overload; you’re aiming for a balanced intake that keeps you feeling satisfied and supports your weight loss goals. If you are unsure, I can help you to work out your exact (in grams) ideal daily protein intake.

Simple Example Day:

Ready to put protein in the spotlight of your weight loss journey? Here’s your simple starter plan:

  1. Start Your Day Right: Add a protein punch to your breakfast. Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts or scrambled eggs are great options.
  2. Lunchtime Boost: Include protein in your lunch. A grilled chicken salad or a bean-packed wrap can do the trick.
  3. Snack Wisely: Opt for protein-rich snacks like a handful of almonds, a cheese stick, or even a boiled egg.
  4. Dinner Delight: Finish the day strong with a protein-packed dinner. Grilled fish, lean meats, or a hearty lentil stew are good choices.

I can help you…

I am a Weight Loss Coach, successfully helping people just like you to lose weight and keep it off: