Starting on a weight-loss plan and increasing your physical activity may leave you wondering what to eat. The internet provides extensive and conflicting information about what type of weight loss diet is best. In general, you want to consume a balanced diet providing enough protein, but not an excessive amount of protein. This will help supply you with the energy and nutrients you need to lose weight while maintaining your overall health.
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Protein Needs Per Day
Your body doesn't store protein the same way it stores fat and carbohydrates. As a result, you need to consume the amount of protein that your body requires in a day. You need protein to maintain your muscles, skin and other organs. Proteins are also essential to build and repair cells. Even proper digestion and body fluids rely on an adequate supply of dietary proteins. According to the Institute of Medicine, most adults need to consume roughly 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.36 grams per pound.
More Exercise Means More Protein
For weight loss to occur, you must create a calorie deficit. You can achieve this by restricting your food calorie intake or by increasing your activity level to burn more calories. Most successful weight loss plans include both components. Increasing your level of activity also increases your protein needs. If you engage in regular physical activity or exercise training you may need 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, according to Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The society also notes that it is important to consume protein immediately before or after physical activity to improve muscle recovery time.
Although protein is essential for your body during weight loss, don't go overboard. If you consume more protein than you need in a day, your body will convert the remainder into energy or calories that are either used or stored. In addition, your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste components from protein and removing them from your body. Over time, a very high protein diet may contribute to kidney disease and increase calcium excretion leading to a decreased bone density. It's best to consume a balanced diet containing protein, carbohydrates and fats to avoid these side effects.
Good Sources of Protein
Pay attention to the sources of protein you use to increase your intake. Certain proteins such as beef, pork, lamb, poultry with skin and full-fat dairy products, contain high levels of saturated fat. Consuming a lot of saturated fat may lead to an elevated cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, according the American Heart Association. Choose lean proteins, such as boneless skinless chicken breast and fat-free dairy, to avoid excess saturated fat. Vegetarian foods such as beans and nuts, are another healthy option to help meet your daily protein needs.
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids
- MedlinePlus: Protein in Diet
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats