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The Case for More Protein

Eat More Protein for Fat Loss

The Case for More Protein

I had a close friend tell me that he’s never seen anyone consume more protein on a regular basis than myself. On average, I only eat 1 g/lb, so it’s not true, but it’s a major indicator that most people don’t consume enough protein.

More than any other nutrition topic, I get more questions about protein. Unless you’re a plant-based eater, it should seem almost intuitive that each meal has a suitable serving of protein. When I say a serving, we’re not talking about two lowly eggs at breakfast or a small container of yogurt. Each meal should have about 35g.

On a quest to lose body fat, if you’re consuming more fat and carbs than protein, you’re screwing up. The results won’t be great. It’s been proven that when calories and protein are correctly accounted for, the mix of fats and carbs doesn’t matter. So, for the sake of simplicity, those are two main things that you should worry about. This is due to a few factors, but we can address calories at another time. Here, let’s discuss why protein is so vital for improving body composition.

Highest Thermogenic Effect

The thermic effect of food is the energy cost of extracting energy from certain foods (sounds weird, but it’s true). It accounts for 10-15% of energy burned during the day. Protein accounts for about 30%, carbs are 6-8%, and fats are about 2-3%. Unknowingly, I once had a client who was only eating 1,000 calories per day and couldn’t lose any weight. After she finally told me, I increased her calories mainly by adding more protein. The result? She lost 5 pounds in 3 weeks.

Most Satiating

Ever have a nice steak, chicken breast, or protein shake and feel full immediately? That means the food you consumed was doing its job by telling your body to end the meal. Satiety is the signal to the body following a meal that’ll inhibit eating before hunger returns. Carbs and fats have lower levels of satiation after a meal. Fats have higher a satiety effect than carbs, but that doesn’t mean much at this point. In addition, a higher protein meal has been linked to the release of an appetite-regulating protein called peptide YY (PYY).

Macro Mostly Linked to Fat Loss

Higher-protein diets also reduce caloric intake and have demonstrated to be superior to isocaloric low protein diets for fat loss. By increasing satiation via an increase in protein, unnecessary snacking will decrease during the day. It’s also been shown that long-term, high-protein diets reduce weight gain by increasing protein synthesis. When protein synthesis is elevated, anabolism (muscle-building) is taking place. World-renowned strength coach and writer Chrisitan Thibaudeau said, “Building more muscle can help you get leaner … Gaining one pound of muscle will increase caloric expenditure by around 15 kcals/day, and up to 25-30 kcals/day if you’re very active.” In addition, by triggering muscle growth via an increase in protein, you’ll become more insulin sensitive. A larger muscle allows for more glycogen storage, meaning you’ll have the ability to eat more carbs!

In a Caloric Deficit, Protein Should Be High

In a 2016 study, researchers conducted a trial test to determine whether a manipulated dietary protein intake during an energy (caloric deficit), in addition to intense exercise, would effect changes in body composition. During a four-week period, two groups of 20 men each participated in the test. The higher protein group (PRO) was given a protein diet consisting of 2.4g/kg of body weight (1.1g/lb.). The control group (CON) group was only allowed to consume 1.2g/kg of body weight (0.5g/lb.) in protein per day.

All subjects performed resistance training and high-intensity interval training for six days per week. As a result, the PRO group lost more fat mass than the CON group (-4.8 ± 1.6 kg compared to -3.5 ± 1.4 kg or 10.56 lbs to 7.7 lbs on average). Exercise performance improved similarly in both groups.

How Much Protein Do You Need?

Gender doesn’t play a massive role in dietary protein needs, so don’t make it complicated. Use the following, and you’ll be fine:

Protein intake for women should be 1.53kg/g (0.7g/lb.) to 1.85kg/g (0.9g/lb.) per pound of body weight at maintenance or in a caloric surplus. Protein intake in a caloric deficit needs to be a bit higher at 1g/lb.

Men may need slightly more since a larger proportion of their body mass is lean mass, but the difference is minor. Men should consume 1.6kg/g to 2.2kg/g (0.8g/lb. to 1g/lb.) for maintenance or in a caloric surplus. Protein intake in a deficit should be 1-1.25g/lb.

Best Protein Sources & Serving Amounts

  • 1 egg – 6g
  • 4 oz. chicken – 35g
  • 4 oz. of turkey – 21g
  • 4 oz. sirloin – 31g
  • 4 oz. salmon – 25g
  • 3 oz. tuna – 25g
  • 1 scoop of whey or casein protein powder – 20-25g

Recap

Eat. Enough. Protein. Period.

Consume the right amount based on your goal and body weight. It doesn’t matter what type of “diet” you prefer. The evidence shows us that a higher-protein diet compared to a lower-protein diet is superior for fat loss. If you don’t think you can get enough protein during the day, try harder. You don’t want to be in a fat-loss phase forever, so make protein intake a priority while you’re trying to get leaner.

References

Batterham, R, et al, “Critical role for peptide YY in protein-mediated satiation and body-weight regulation,” Cell Metabolism Vol. 4, Issue 3, P223-233, September 1, 2006

Douglas Paddon-Jones, Eric Westman, Richard D Mattes, Robert R Wolfe, Arne Astrup, Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga; Protein, weight management, and satiety, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 87, Issue 5, 1 May 2008, Pages 1558S–1561S

Thomas M Longland, Sara Y Oikawa, Cameron J Mitchell, Michaela C Devries, Stuart M Phillips; Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 3, 1 March 2016, Pages 738–746