Eating protein is the single most important nutrient for weight loss and a better-looking body. A high protein intake boosts metabolism, reduces appetite and changes several weight-regulating hormones. It can help you lose weight and belly fat, and it works via several different mechanisms as explained:
Proteins change the levels of several weight-regulating hormones
our weight is actively regulated by your brain, particularly an area called the hypothalamus, in order for your brain to determine when and how much to eat, it processes multiple different types of information.
Some of the most important signals to the brain are hormones that change in response to feeding. A higher protein intake actually increases levels of the satiety (appetite-reducing) hormones GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin, while reducing your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
By replacing carbs and fat with protein, you reduce the hunger hormone and boost several satiety hormones. this leads to a major reduction in hunger and is the main reason protein helps you lose weight. It can make you eat fewer calories automatically.
Digesting and metabolizing protein burns calories
After you eat, some calories are used for the purpose of digesting and metabolizing the food. This is often termed the thermic effect of food (TEF). Although not all sources agree on the exact figures, it is clear that protein has a much higher thermic effect (20-30%) compared to carbohydrates (5-10%) and fat (0-3%).
If we go with a thermic effect of 30% for protein, this means that 100 calories of protein only end up as 70 usable calories.
Protein makes you burn more calories.
Due to the high thermic effect and several other factors, a high protein intake tends to boost metabolism. It makes you burn more calories around the clock, including during sleep
High protein intake has been shown to boost metabolism and increase the number of calories burned by about 80 to 100 per day. This effect is particularly pronounced during overfeeding, or while eating at a caloric surplus. In one study, overfeeding with a high protein diet increased calories burned by 260 per day. By making you burn more calories, high protein diets have a “metabolic advantage” over diets that are lower in protein.
Protein reduces appetite and makes you eat fewer calories
Protein can reduce hunger and appetite via several different mechanisms, this can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake. In other words, you end up eating fewer calories without having to count calories or consciously control portions.
Numerous studies have shown that when people increase their protein intake, they start eating fewer calories. This works on a meal-to-meal basis, as well as a sustained day-to-day reduction in calorie intake as long as protein intake is kept high.
In one study, protein at 30% of calories caused people to automatically drop their calorie intake by 441 calories per day, which is a huge amount. So, high protein diets not only have a metabolic advantage – they also have an “appetite advantage,” making it much easier to cut calories compared to lower protein diets.
Protein cuts cravings and reduces the desire for late night snacking
Cravings are the dieter’s worst enemy. They are one of the biggest reasons why people tend to fail on their diets. Another major problem is the late-night snacking. Many people who have a tendency to gain weight get cravings at night, so they snack in the evening. These calories are added on top of all the calories they ate during the day. Interestingly, protein can have a powerful effect on both cravings and the desire to snack at night.
Proteins help reduce muscle loss and metabolism slowdown
Weight loss doesn’t always equal fat loss. When you lose weight, muscle mass tends to be reduced as well. However, what you really want to lose is body fat, both subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around organs). Losing muscle is a side effect of weight loss that most people don’t want. Another side effect of losing weight is that the metabolic rate tends to decrease. In other words, you end up burning fewer calories than you did before you lost the weight. This is often referred to as “starvation mode,” and can amount to several hundred fewer calories burned each day.
Eating plenty of protein can reduce muscle loss, which should help keep your metabolic rate higher as you lose body fat. Strength training is another major factor that can reduce muscle loss and metabolic slowdown when losing weight. For this reason, a high protein intake and heavy strength training are two incredibly important components of an effective fat loss plan.
Not only do they help keep your metabolism high, but they also make sure that what is underneath the fat actually looks good. Without protein and strength training, you may end up looking “skinny-fat” instead of fit and lean.
Protein consumption is the easiest, simplest and most delicious way to lose weight
When it comes to fat loss and a better looking body, protein is the king of nutrients. You don’t need to restrict anything to benefit from a higher protein intake. It is all about adding to your diet.
This is particularly appealing because most high-protein foods also taste really good. Eating more of them is easy and satisfying. A high-protein diet can also be an effective obesity prevention strategy, not something that you just use temporarily to lose fat. By permanently increasing your protein intake, you tip the “calories in vs calories out” balance in your favor. Over months, years or decades, the difference in your waistline could be huge.
However, keep in mind that calories still count. Protein can reduce hunger and boost metabolism, but you won’t lose weight if you don’t eat fewer calories than you burn. It is definitely possible to overeat and negate the calorie deficit caused by the higher protein intake, especially if you eat a lot of junk food.
For this reason, you should still base your diet mostly on whole, single ingredient food. Although this article focused only on weight loss, protein also has numerous other benefits for health.