Knowledge is power, and knowing your body's protein needs can jump-start your weight-loss journey or help you bust through any plateaus. After all, protein is a powerhouse macronutrient for satiety, so your daily protein intake for weight loss is important.
A study published in November 2014 in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism showed that a high-protein diet can help you lose weight by keeping you fuller for longer. The study noted that high-protein diets increase the amount of hormones the body secretes that make you feel full. In addition to increasing these satiety hormones, a high-protein diet can also increase the amount of calories the body burns.
Read more: How Protein Can Help You Lose More Weight
Increase Protein for Weight Loss
A June 2017 study published in Obesity Facts found that adults who followed a high-protein diet and stuck to it lost significantly more weight than adults who just reduced their calorie intake. This suggests that if you are trying to lose weight, cutting calories alone is not as effective as cutting calories and increasing your daily protein intake.
Additionally, an August 2018 study in Frontiers in Endocrinology notes that protein may be the key to weight management because eating protein makes you feel fuller longer. It also promotes the body's energy expenditure or calorie burn, and helps change the body composition in favor of lower fat body mass.
In general, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) makes the following daily protein recommendations, saying that 10 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from protein. The Recommended Dietary Allowance — which refers to what healthy people need to intake on average per day to meet their nutrient requirements and is based solely on weight — says you need to eat 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Calculating Protein for Weight Loss
While a dietary reference intake (DRI) calculator will give you a good idea of the minimum amount of protein you need to keep your body functioning, it doesn't take daily protein intake for weight loss and muscle gain into account.
For a weight-loss diet that focuses on increasing daily protein intake, you may need to figure out your needs differently, particularly if exercise is a part of your weight-loss plan. The ACSM suggests upping your daily protein intake to 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight if you are exercising.
However, the optimum amount of protein for weight loss may be even higher. A study in the Spril 2015 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that when a person ate 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal, there was a reduction in appetite and body weight.
Protein Intake and Muscle Gain
Increasing lean muscle mass can help a person lose weight because muscle burns slightly more calories than fat according to the Mayo Clinic. A study published in May 2017 in Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal found increased protein intake helps you preserve lean muscle mass when losing weight.
However, increasing your protein intake doesn't help with muscle strength or function. In order to increase your strength while building muscle and losing weight, the study suggests adding resistance-based training, such as weightlifting, to your routine.
Keep in mind that the old adage "Too much of a good thing" can be true when it comes to protein. According to a July 2013 study in the International Scholarly Research Notices Nutrition Journal, people who eat too much protein may be at an increased risk for bone disorders, kidney and liver problems, certain cancers and heart disease. The study concludes that any protein over the RDA may cause adverse effects.
Because of this, Harvard Health Publishing recommends that people who want to follow a high-protein diet choose well-balanced diets, such as Mediterranean diet, that are also rich in vegetables and whole grains. If you are eating too much protein, you may notice some signs that you need to reduce your protein intake. Weight gain and dehydration, along with not not feeling well, can all be clues you are overdoing it.
Read more: 6 Rules for Muscle Gain
Healthy Proteins for Weight Loss
Choosing your proteins carefully can help you lose weight successfully while staying healthy. You might think increasing proteins means simply eating more meat. However, there are many vegetarian sources of protein that you may overlook.
Healthy high protein food choices include meat and poultry like chicken and turkey breasts, lean cuts of beef and pork, and fish. Other healthy protein packed food includes eggs, legumes, and some dairy products like yogurt. Nuts and quinoa can also offer a plant based boost of protein.
Additionally, you could consider adding protein powder to your diet for weight loss and muscle building. There are many different types of protein powder to choose from to fit your dietary needs, such as a milk-based protein powders like whey or casein protein powders or vegan protein powders like pea protein.
- Obesity Facts: "Effect of a High-Protein Diet Versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals"
- International Scholarly Research Notices: "Adverse Effects Associated With Protein Intake Above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "When It Comes to Protein, How Much Is Too Much?"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Preserving Healthy Muscle During Weight Loss 1,2,3"
- Frontiers in Endocrinology: "Dietary Protein and Energy Balance in Relation to Obesity and Co-Morbidities"
- Nutrition and Metabolism: "A High-Protein Diet for Reducing Body Fat: Mechanisms and Possible Caveats"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories"
- Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients