Why Good Protein Intake is Vital for Healthy Weight Loss
Published on Sep 28, 2020
By Dr. Surya Bhagwati
Chief In- House Doctor
BAMS, DHA, DHHCM, DHBTC | 30+ Years of Experience
When it comes to weight loss, we have traditionally focused on dietary fat. We tend to associate fats from food with body fat. In our zeal to cut back on fat intake, most of us have focused on following low fat diets to lower bodyweight. In so doing, we tend to replace calories from fats with calories from carbs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really produce the desired results and can even increase weight gain. Aside from the fact that we’re choosing the wrong types of carbs and that sugar is the real culprit for weight gain (not fat), we’re overlooking protein. Protein is the single most important nutrient if you are looking to lose weight or gain muscle mass. This is precisely why the Keto and Paleo diets have become so popular with weight watchers. While you don’t need to go to extremes, increasing your protein intake will certainly help with weight loss. Here’s how it works.
How Protein Promotes Healthy Weight Loss
Reduces Calorie Intake
While it’s true that protein-rich foods tend to be higher in calories, they are known to suppress appetite, reducing food cravings and thereby calorie intake. While calorie counting is not the healthiest approach, increased protein intake makes it unnecessary as you automatically reduce portion sizes and find it easier to control food choices. This has been confirmed from studies, which show that sustained high protein intake (about 30 percent of your calories) leads to a reduction in total daily calorie intake by as much as 440 calories!
Eliminates Energy Spikes and Cravings
The problem with high carb and low protein diets is that you are more likely to experience sudden dips and falls in blood sugar levels, especially when you’re consuming simple carbs. After all, all carbs are broken down to produce glucose. These rapid fluctuations in blood sugar or glucose levels don’t just affect energy, but also your food cravings. These cravings are strongest at night, which is why late night snacking is such a problem. This influx of calories from snacking is one of the primary causes of weight gain. By filling up with protein, this problem is effectively dealt with as it is broken down at a slower rate and eliminates such spikes. Research suggests that even increasing protein intake to give you 25 percent of your daily calories will reduce cravings by as much as 60 percent.
Increases Calorie Burn
We often hear of foods and medications that can ‘boost’ metabolism, but such claims are often exaggerated. That certainly isn’t the case with protein because of its high thermic effect, which refers to the amount of energy or calories used to breakdown, absorb, and dispose of the nutrient. Studies show that high protein intake increases calorie expenditure throughout the day, including while you sleep! Additionally, there is evidence to show that protein actually boosts metabolisms, increasing calorie expenditure by as much as 100 calories a day.
Regulates Hormones that Affect Weight
Feelings that affect eating habits and weight gain are not just influenced by the speed at which nutrients you consume are broken down, but also by brain signals and hormones. As it turns out, the positive influence of protein on satiety isn’t just connected to its slower rate of breakdown and absorption in the body. It I is also linked to a direct influence that protein has on hormones. Protein intake increases levels of hormones like GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin, which are known to increase satiety, while it reduces levels of ghrelin, the hormone that increases hunger.
Promotes Fat Loss, Not Muscle Loss
If you are trying to lose weight, it’s most important to ensure that you are losing weight through fat reduction, rather than from muscle mass loss. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable side effect of almost all weight loss diets that reduce calorie intake. It’s not the case with high protein diets however, as high protein intake reduces muscle loss. At the same time, keeping your protein intake high also ensures that there is no metabolic slowdown, another side effect of weight loss diets – the condition in which low calorie intake sends your body into starvation mode, reducing calorie expenditure and slowing down fat loss.
While high protein diets can certainly help with weight loss, you should exercise caution when making any drastic change to your diet. This is especially true if you suffer from any pre-existing health condition. Excessive intake of protein can be counterproductive, forcing your body to use protein as an energy source. More worrying, is the risk of side effects from excess protein intake. When adding protein to your diet, you should first calculate precisely how much protein you actually need. This is based on a variety of factors, including your weight, gender, and activity levels. If you suffer from any chronic health condition, you should also speak to your doctor before increasing protein intake.
Don’t forget that protein isn’t the only nutrient you need for healthy weight loss. Make sure to include plenty of foods that are rich in complex carbs and healthy fats too, to ensure that you get balanced nutrition. Aside from getting a boost with protein, you can also use traditional Ayurvedic herbs that are known to support weight loss through a variety of mechanisms.
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