Protein is one of the nutrients that's good for increasing satiety, making it an important part of any diet. It isn't the only nutrient you need to be concerned with, however, as you still want to eat a balanced diet overall. For the best weight-loss results, you'll also want to increase your exercise as well. Check with your doctor before starting any weight-loss plan to make sure it is safe for you.
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Amount of Protein Necessary for Women
Adult women need at least 45 grams of protein per day, and should aim to get between 10 and 35 percent of their calories from protein. There may be some weight-loss benefits, however, to aiming for an amount near the higher end of this range -- to about 25 percent. For someone following a 1,200-calorie diet, this would be about 75 grams of protein per day, and someone following a 1,500-calorie diet would need about 94 grams per day. A review article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2015 noted that getting at least 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal appears to help with weight loss and satiety.
Choosing the Best Protein Sources
Not all protein sources are created equal. Some are high in unhealthy saturated fat and calories, making them less than ideal for weight-loss purposes. Calories still matter in this equation, however, because the equation isn't solely about the number of grams of protein you eat. It's best to get a variety of different types of lean protein such as those found in beans, skinless poultry, eggs, fish and seafood. Although nuts are high in fat, the fat they contain is mainly healthy unsaturated fat, so they're a nutritious protein source, as long as you eat them in moderation. When eating pork or beef, stick to the leanest cuts such as those with "round" or "loin" in their name.
By choosing leaner meats, you'll get more protein per ounce. For example, a 3.5-ounce serving of 70-percent-lean ground beef has approximately 14 grams of protein while 90-percent-lean ground beef has 20 grams. A 3.5-ounce serving of chicken or poultry will provide approximately 20 to 30 grams of protein. A serving of skirt steak has about 27 grams of protein, and a 1/3-cup serving of soy beans has 17 grams. A 1/4-cup serving of almonds has approximately 6 grams of protein, and a 3.5-ounce serving of non-fat cottage cheese or a 1/2-cup serving of non-fat Greek yogurt has 10 grams of protein.
Don't Forget Healthy Fats
The higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet that can be helpful for weight loss isn't necessarily a low-fat diet. Typically, these diets will have 25 to 30 percent of their calories from fat. So, it's important to choose the right types of fat. When possible, you should replace trans fats and saturated fats with healthier monounsaturated and omega-3 fats. A study published in Diabetes Care in 2007 found that diets rich in monounsaturated fat helped limit belly fat deposits and the development of insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. The essential omega-3 fats may also be helpful for weight loss, according to a study published in the Latin American Archives of Nutrition in 2013, which found that women who followed a low-calorie diet, exercised and increased their omega-3 intake experienced decreases in weight, body fat and body mass index.
Choose Low-Glycemic-Index Sources of Carbohydrates
Along with reducing your overall carbohydrate intake, you may want to make sure that the carbs you do consume are low on the glycemic index, which is a measurement of how a food affects blood sugar levels. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in November 2010 found that people who ate a diet that was high in protein and low on the glycemic index lost more weight than those who followed diets that were lower in protein or higher on the glycemic index. Foods high in fiber or those that are acidic tend to have a lower glycemic index, as both of these indicators are helpful for slowing the emptying of the stomach. Foods high in protein or fat also lower the overall glycemic index of a meal, whereas long cooking times or foods that are highly processed tend to increase the GI.
Importance of Exercise Along With Diet
A combination of a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet along -- with 5 days of cardio workouts and 2 days of resistance training -- helps improve body composition, and this combination appears to have an additive effect, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2005. Cardio helps increase the number of calories you burn each day, and resistance training helps you build and maintain muscle as you're losing weight. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue at rest, so increasing your muscle mass slightly helps you increase your metabolism. Protein provides the necessary amino acids for building new muscle as you participate in resistance training.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance
- The Journal of Nutrition: Dietary Protein and Exercise Have Additive Effects on Body Composition During Weight Loss in Adult Women
- USDA: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Diabetes Care: Monounsaturated Fat-Rich Diet Prevents Central Body Fat Distribution and Decreases Postprandial Adiponectin Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate-Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant Subjects
- Latin American Archives of Nutrition: Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Body Female Obese Composition
- The New England Journal of Medicine: Diets With High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance
- Clinical Diabetes: The 3 R's of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Tips For Making Wise Choices: Tips to Help You Make Wise Choices From the Protein Foods Group
- HelpGuide.org: Good Ways to Get Quality Protein