Is Protein Good for Weight Loss?

February 26, 2024

Cleveland has some great homegrown restaurants like Catch, Spoony’s, Misfit Tacos, and Rico Deli where you can get your fill of the delicious protein you need for a healthy diet. But it’s crucial to understand protein’s impact on weight management as well as the debates that surround the topic. Let’s investigate how protein affects our appetites, energy levels, and overall weight.

What is Protein?

Knowing protein’s role within the body is crucial to understanding its effects on weight. Protein is comprised of organic chemical elements, called amino acids which are critical to the proper functioning of our bodies. The body requires 20 different amino acids in total, yet it can only make 11. The amino acids that our bodies can make are called non-essential and the nine the body cannot make, and which must be acquired through food, are called essential amino acids. Amino acids facilitate various bodily functions including cell repair, oxygenation of red blood cells, digestion, hormone regulation, and muscle recovery. About 10% to 35% of the average person’s daily calories should come from protein.

Not all proteins are the same—some are animal-based, some plant-based. Animal proteins are complete proteins as they contain all the amino acids our bodies cannot make. Plant proteins, with the notable exception of soy, are incomplete proteins because they do not contain every amino acid our body cannot make.

Examples of complete proteins:

Fish, poultry, eggs, beef, pork, dairy, and sources of soy like tofu, edamame, miso, and tempeh

Incomplete proteins include:

Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts), tree nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables

Calories and Energy

One benefit of protein-rich foods is that they are denser than carbohydrates and help us feel full for longer periods. Feeling satiated for longer can aid in reducing overall calorie intake while maintaining energy levels.

One study centered on the hormonal effects of a single high-protein breakfast (51% protein) compared to a high-calorie breakfast (containing only 10% protein). It found that at 120 minutes post high protein meal the levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone PYY were significantly higher than they were among the high calorie eaters. Satiety scores were also higher while after meal cravings were less.

Metabolic Processes

The thermic effect of protein refers to the increase in energy expenditure during its digestion, absorption, and metabolism. In comparison, up to 30% of the calories from protein are burned in the metabolization process before one even considers exercising. This can help affect calorie deficit, an essential element in weight loss. It is important to consider individual factors such as activity level, body composition goals, and overall dietary preferences.

Protein and Muscles

During weight loss, preserving muscle mass is essential. While it is often believed that increasing protein intake can aid in muscle building and preservation, studies suggest that the average American diet typically provides sufficient protein without the need for supplementation.

As the body sheds pounds, it’s not just fat that decreases; muscle tissue is also lost. To help retain muscle mass, rather than trying to supplement with additional protein, practice strength training and focus on incorporating high-quality lean proteins.

Optimal muscle-protein synthesis, the process by which new muscle is created, might be helped by timing protein intake. A serving of protein after strength training and a protein-rich bedtime snack eaten one to two hours before bedtime can become strategic allies in preserving and building muscle mass.

Recommended Protein Sources

Focusing on high-quality protein sources that are also nutrient-dense can provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients while supporting metabolic processes. Lean animal proteins provide superior bioavailability, while plant-based ones provide the necessary fiber.

Recommended high-quality protein sources include:

  • Eggs of all types or egg whites
  • Dairy and dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Fish and seafood (wild-caught salmon, sardines, trout)
  • Legumes (chickpeas, green peas, kidney beans or lentils)
  • Lean meats (chicken, lean beef, turkey or pork)
  • Nuts, grains, seeds (also nut butter)
  • Soy (including edamame and tofu)

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

While opinions vary on ideal protein intake, it is essential to avoid excessive protein consumption, which can stress the kidneys and increase the risk of heart disease. The body can only absorb a limited amount of protein at once. Excess protein is flushed through the kidneys or converted into fat. A general guideline is to consume protein in portions equivalent to the size of a deck of playing cards per meal to avoid adverse effects on your health.

Protein plays a crucial role in weight management by promoting satiety, boosting energy expenditure, and preserving muscle mass. However, moderation and choosing high-quality protein sources are key for overall health and well-being.

While we don’t offer nutritional services, we can help point you in the right direction or treat other common illnesses that may occur. Visit AFC Urgent Care Cleveland today with no appointment necessary.

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