When examining the role of protein in your diet, how much can this key nutrient actually help with your weight loss goals? High-protein diets are all the rage right now, but what does protein really do in your body to help you drop pounds? And how much do you need each day to find success?
This article will look at how protein can potentially help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. It will also outline some of the best high-protein dietary sources in various food groups, so you can increase the amount of protein you eat, daily.
Ready to use a high protein as a tool in your healthy weight management plan? Let’s go!
The Role of Protein in Your Body
When you’re enjoying chicken for dinner, adding cheese into your chili, or spreading peanut butter on your sandwich, you probably don’t think much about the role of protein in your body. Instead, you know they’re protein-rich foods that give you energy. But just how do they influence you?
Proteins actually provide structural support to every cell in your body, and have been nicknamed the building blocks of life. You can find protein in just about every body part and tissue, including your skin, hair, muscles and bones.
How High Protein Diets Help you Lose Weight
After understanding the key roles of protein, you can move on to how it supports specific health goals, namely weight loss.
More protein in your diet equals a faster metabolism, which helps you burn more calories throughout the day, during activity and rest. Weight loss is a numbers game, and protein can therefore help you get the edge you need. You can learn more about developing a healthier metabolism here.
High-protein meals are extremely satiating, so they can help you control your appetite in between meals and avoid unhealthy snacking. Protein also increases satiety hormones in your body, helping to reduce appetite; And it reduces levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin.
Studies continue to show that high protein diets lead to significant weight loss. In addition, they’re particularly beneficial to reduce belly fat, a harmful fat that builds up around the organs.
Prevents Muscle Loss
While you’re losing weight, the last thing you want to do is lose muscle as well. Eating a high-protein diet in combination with strength training can help preserve your muscle and ensure your metabolism stays strong and steady for continued weight maintenance.
What Constitutes as “High Protein”?
The typical Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is only 46g daily for women and 56g daily for men. While this amount may be enough to prevent deficiency, it’s far from where you want to be for weight loss or muscle gain.
On a higher protein diet, you want to include at least 25-30g of protein in each meal, along with some high-protein snacks.
But everyone’s exact protein needs will be different. Most of the studies on protein and weight loss suggest that you aim to get 30% of your daily calories from protein.
You can therefore find the right grams for you by multiplying your daily calorie intake by 0.075. Need to find your daily calories for weight loss? Use this free calorie calculator to get an answer in seconds.
If you’re going to follow a high-protein diet, it’s helpful to know which foods are some of the best sources of protein (while offering superior health benefits). Here’s a list of 10 foods in various categories that can help you reach your protein for weight loss goals. Many of these foods are also great for helping you maintain healthy cholesterol levels, which you can learn more about here.
This protein-rich fish is also full of “healthy” fats“, namely omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to support good heart health.
Protein amount: A 3-ounce serving contains 19 grams.
2) Chicken Breast
One of the most popular protein foods, it’s also a very lean meat that’s low in calories, but will keep you full and satisfied more than most carb-heavy foods.
Protein amount: 1 roasted chicken breast (without skin) contains 53 grams.
More than just a breakfast favorite, eggs are one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods. They’re high in protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants.
Protein amount: 1 large egg contains 6 grams.
All nuts and seeds are great sources of protein, but almonds are also packed with important nutrients including fiber, vitamin E and magnesium.
Protein amount: 1 ounce of almonds contains 6 grams.
5) Greek Yogurt
Unsweetened Greek Yogurt is a protein-rich food, along with an excellent source of calcium and beneficial bacteria called probiotics – which benefit your gut health.
Protein amount: A 6-ounce container of non-fat Greek yogurt contains 17g of protein.
You may not typically think of grains as being high in protein, but oats are a great source. They also provide great fiber, magnesium, iron and thiamine.
Protein amount: ½ cup raw oats has 13 grams.
Although animal-based foods such as meat and dairy will provide more protein, you can still get it from plant-based sources. One of these foods is broccoli, which is also full of vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and potassium.
Protein amount: 1 cup has 3 grams.
8) Grass-Fed Beef
While beef in general is a great source of protein, grass-fed beef will provide you with additional health benefits. It’s rich in healthy omega-3 fats and much higher in vitamin A and vitamin E than grain-fed beef.
Protein amount: 4 ounces contains 26.16 grams.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, this superfood will help you meet your daily protein goals. The seed/grain is high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, along with inflammation-fighting antioxidants.
Protein amount: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams.
10) Meal Replacement Shakes
High-quality protein shakes are one of the best ways to meet your daily protein needs on a busy schedule. Look for a shake that has no sugar, is low in calories, and provides good fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even superfoods for overall health.
Protein amount: Most shakes will offer about 15-20 grams of protein per serving.
You can compare some of the top diet shakes on the market here.
Foods to Avoid
While on a high-protein diet, there are also some foods to avoid for ultimate success in meeting your health and weight loss goals. These include…
- Protein bars and other high-protein snacks filled with unhealthy ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, chemical-additives and more.
- Sugary drinks and foods (including protein shakes that are full of sugar or artificial sweeteners).
- Packaged or processed foods full of additives, unhealthy oils, trans fats, and too many saturated fats.
Ready to make protein a key part of your weight loss efforts? As a start, try adding an extra serving of protein to each meal (using the food suggestions in this article). Or, for folks always on the go (like many of us here at Meal Replacement Shakes), we’re fond of replacing 1-2 meals per day with a protein shakes containing 15-20g of protein per serving. You can check out our favorite meal replacement shake brands (all high in protein!) here.