There’s a lot of jibber-jabber in the weight loss world surrounding carbohydrates (“carbs”) and fats (the ones you eat in food).
People just can’t seem to agree these days.
One day we’re told to never eat fat again, because eating dietary fat *must* mean we’re going *be* fat. Then the next day, we’re told that butter is a “superfood” and we should be putting it in our coffee to lose weight!
Fortunately, one thing remains consistent in all of the research surrounding weight loss:
It really doesn’t matter all that much whether you eat a low carb/high fat diet or a low fat/high carb diet. When calories are the same and protein intake is consistent your weight loss will be fairly similar.
That means as long as you’re eating a good amount of high quality protein sources with your meals, you can fill the gaps with more or less fats and carbohydrates depending on your eating preferences.
If you’re like most people, you probably just let out a gigantic sigh of relief!
No more stressing yourself out trying to never eat carbs again or force feeding yourself tasteless, low-fat foods.
As long as your having some protein sources with your meals and your calories are in check, you can fill your diet with the foods you actually enjoy eating and still lose weight – what a concept!
Why Is Protein So Important For Sustainable Weight Loss?
Protein is important for sustainable weight loss for many reasons, but 3 of the bigger ones are:
- Muscle Synthesis (building that glorious muscle – aka “gainzzz”)
- Satiety (keeping full and feeling utterly satisfied after your meals)
- Thermodynamics (you know, physics and stuff)
Let’s take a look at each in a little bit more detail.
Muscle Synthesis & Weight Loss
Proteins are organic molecules made up of various amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of life and are involved in most of the functions of our body. So yeah, I guess you could say they’re pretty important.
One function you may be familiar with is muscle synthesis – building and repairing muscle tissue.
Muscle tissue is very metabolically active. This means our body actually has to burn calories just to maintain our muscle. And if we’re trying to increase the muscle we have (i.e. through strength training), it requires even more caloric energy.
For example, let’s take two people who each weigh the same, but one person has a higher percentage of muscle. That person will actually have a higher metabolic rate. This means their body will actually burn more calories than the person with less muscle.
This becomes even more important when we take into consideration the metabolic adaptation that occurs with weight loss.
Let’s take two people that both weigh 180 lbs.
But one of them recently lost 40 lbs to end up at 180 lbs.
That person will have a slightly lower metabolic rate than the person who has been 180 lbs their whole life.
This metabolic adaptation is completely normal, but it’s also one of the reasons why weight loss is so challenging to maintain.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this: strength training.
By strength training and eating enough quality protein, we can build muscle as we’re losing weight. This counteracts some of the metabolic adaptation, making sustainable weight loss more achievable (and enjoyable).
The Importance Of Satiety For Weight Loss
Another protein benefit is that foods rich in protein tend to be quite satiating. This means you feel more satisfied after your meals and less likely to overeat.
One reason for this could be the fact that high protein foods tend to also come paired with a small amount of dietary fats (this is a good thing). But the fact still remains; people who eat higher amounts of protein rich foods tend not to overeat as much.
By focusing on eating an adequate amount of protein rich foods and plenty of vegetables, you’ll end up feeling more satisfied after your meals and less likely to succumb to cravings later on – if they come up at all.
Thermodynamics – Yeah, Science!
Unless you’re a big time science nerd like me, you’re probably a little bit rusty on your laws of physics.
That’s ok though, because we’re going to keep this nice and simple.
Basically, when we eat food – which is made up of proteins, fats and carbohydrates – our body has to break them down through digestion. This process of breaking down foods requires energy – a.k.a. Calories.
It just so happens that breaking down (i.e. digesting) a protein molecule is very labour-intensive and it requires a lot of energy to do properly.
Up to 30% of the energy – read; calories – in protein is actually used simply to digest it. Compare that number to 8% and 3% for carbohydrates and fats, respectively.
That’s a big difference.
Let’s look at an example to break this down further:
A typical chicken breast might carry approximately 30 grams of protein.
At 4 calories/gram of protein, that means the protein in the chicken breast is approximately 120 calories of energy.
Of those 120 calories, digestion is going to require 40 calories (30%), leaving us with 80 calories.
Now, let’s look at 30 grams of carbohydrates – say, in a bowl of oatmeal.
At 4 calories/gram of carbohydrate, that means the carbohydrate in the oatmeal is 120 calories of energy.
Of those 120 calories, digestion is only going to require approximately 10 calories (8%), leaving us with 110 calories.
As you can imagine, when we look at this over the course of an entire day, week or month of meals, the macronutrient make up of your diet is going to play a significant role in how many calories you’re burning compared to how many calories you’re consuming.
Wrap Up – Protein & Weight Loss
These are just 3 of the reasons why ensuring that you getting enough quality protein is very important. Especially when it comes to sustainable weight loss.
Weight loss is a very complex process and there are many variables. But when you put the focus on eating more of the beneficial foods it becomes a much more enjoyable process.
So, go ahead and enjoy that steak – you’ve earned it.
Want To Kick Things Up A Notch?
This article on “The Magical Benefits Of Protein For Weight Loss” has no doubt given you plenty of strategies for dominating your diet!
But if you’re wanting to go a bit further or you’re looking for more help, I have 2 options for you…
If you want step-by-step, personalized guidance on exactly what you need to do to reach your fitness or weight loss goals, including:
- Customized workout program
- Specific lifestyle-based nutrition plan
- 100% access to your personal coach at all times
Then you’ll want to apply for one of our awesome 1-1 online coaching experiences – Blue Phoenix Fitness Online Coaching or Sustainable Weight Loss Online Coaching:
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Stay strong and live awesome, my friend.