What type, when, and how much protein to eat to burn fat and build muscle!
As the building block for your muscles and bones, protein might just be the most important macronutrient when it comes to fat loss. However, despite its importance, most people just aren’t getting enough to support healthy muscle growth and fat reduction. Let’s take a look at why protein is so important, how much you should get, when you should have it, and what kinds of protein are best to build muscle.
Why is protein great for fat loss?
Increasing the amount of protein in your diet helps fat loss because protein keeps you full and provides steady energy over a period of hours, unlike high-carb junk foods that can cause quick spikes and drops in both energy and hormone levels. Individuals who eat enough protein are less likely to be hungry and can often more easily stay in a calorie deficit (eating less calories than you burn, which is required to lose weight) for long periods of time.
When combined with exercise, especially some form of resistance training, increased protein also leads to more muscle . Increasing muscle is an essential part of weight loss because your body burns more calories maintaining a pound of muscle than maintaining a pound of fat, meaning that that people with proportionally more muscle have better (and faster!) metabolisms. This means that they burn more calories even while sitting around and doing nothing, and can eat more food without gaining weight. Of course, more muscle will almost always help you look better (who doesn’t want that?) and has countless other health benefits.
When should you eat protein?
As long as you’re choosing quality protein sources as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet, there’s never really a bad time to eat protein. However, if you usually eat a breakfast that is high in processed carbs, like muffins or cereal, it could be a good move to add in some protein, or better yet, completely ditch the simple carbs for a protein-centered breakfast like a bowl of greek yogurt, an egg white omelet, or a small protein shake.
Studies show that people who eat protein in the morning lose weight faster, lose more weight, and have an easier time keeping weight of than those who don’t. Plus, you don’t have to stick to conventional breakfast – healthy leftovers like chicken breast and lean beef are also good choices.
What types of protein should you eat?
Increasing your protein intake doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that you have to eat fatty, unhealthy foods. In fact, some of the best protein sources for weight loss are generally low in fat in calories, such as grilled, baked, or broiled chicken and turkey breasts, egg whites, unsweetened Greek yogurt, tuna, and lean cuts of beef. Shrimp and other types of shellfish are another good lean source of protein, but make sure you aren’t allergic before you chow down. Protein powders are another example of a lean protein source, however, it’s important to note that these vary greatly in quality. So if you decide to use protein powder as a part of your diet, make sure you’re getting a high-quality product.
Salmon (especially the wild variety), dark meat chicken and turkey, and fattier cuts of beef can be added in, but it’s a good idea not to moderate intake, because these foods have a much higher calorie content due to increased amounts of fat.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can sometimes be more challenging to get enough protein. However, soy-based meats are constantly increasing in taste quality, and beans, brown-rice (also in powder form), peanut butter, and nuts can also be excellent sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans, though each food’s fat, carbohydrate, and overall calorie content has to be considered relative to the amount of protein and your activity level.
How much protein should you eat?
Individuals trying to lose fat and gain muscle should probably get somewhere between 0.5- 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. However, it’s important to note that suggestions among various groups vary; for example, the American Dietetic Association recommends 0.36/lb of bodyweight, while the National Strength and Conditioning Association (N.S.C.A.) recommends that active people consume 0.4g to 0.6g per pound, and that athletes consume 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
A high-protein diet is generally considered safe, as long as you’re eating an ample amount of fruits and vegetables and don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions (like kidney disease) that would make it problematic. As with any food, vitamin, or macronutrient, people will have slightly different reactions to different amounts of protein, meaning that the ideal quantity can vary from individual to individual, depending on weight loss goals, body composition, activity level, lifestyle factors, and genetic predispositions.
Unless you’re already eating a ton of lean meats and dairy products, it might be time to increase your protein intake if you want to speed up fat loss. Get protein from healthy sources, keep eating fruits and vegetables, and, of course, stay moving!
If you want personalized advice and a detailed plan to eat healthier, consider the Plantation Wellness program, a medically-proven diet that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Call our office at 954-452-4590 or contact us through our online form.
Dr. Nina Coletta has been practicing Podiatric medicine for nearly 20 years and is the owner of Plantation Wellness Center. For the past 30 years, Dr. Coletta has been a fitness and nutrition enthusiast. Her passion for health and wellness, along with a strong desire to help her patients live healthy lifestyles, led to the selection of Ideal Protein as her platform of choice for weight loss.