Research suggests that focusing on protein intake while reducing overall calorie intake can aid in weight loss and improve overall body composition. Additionally, incorporating protein into your diet can leave you feeling satisfied and energised throughout your weight loss journey. But why is this the case? Keep reading to discover the top three reasons why prioritising protein is beneficial for weight loss and overall health.
Often, when we talk about nutrients, our minds immediately go to vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C or iron. These micronutrients are vital for our health, as we require them in small amounts to facilitate thousands of physiological processes in the body. However, we must not overlook the importance of protein, which is also a crucial nutrient. Unlike vitamins and minerals, protein is a macronutrient, meaning that our bodies require it in larger quantities.
Apart from providing calories (with roughly 4 calories per gram of protein), the primary role of protein in the body is to promote growth and repair. During digestion, protein is broken down into amino acids, which serve as building blocks for muscles, hair, nails, skin, bones, organs, neurotransmitters, and hormones. There are 20 amino acids that make up protein, and while all are significant for our health, nine are categorised as essential, and 11 are non-essential. In nutritional terms, 'essential' indicates that our bodies cannot produce these amino acids on their own and, therefore, we must obtain them from our diet.
2. Protein keeps you fuller for longer
Foods that contain protein (such as fish, meats, eggs, tofu, and legumes) and fibre (such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed whole grains) provide longer satiety and are highly nutrient-dense.
- Protein protects your lean muscle mass. For many, the primary objective of weight loss is to decrease fat mass while preserving lean muscle mass. Simply reducing overall calorie intake is not enough, as it is crucial to consume sufficient protein calories for your age and body weight. This step is vital in protecting your lean muscle mass while gradually losing body fat over time
Interestingly, it has been suggested that our search for sufficient protein may be a cause of overeating. For instance, in one study, individuals who consumed lower amounts of protein in their first meal of the day increased their overall food intake in subsequent meals, while those who consumed the recommended amount of protein ate less in subsequent meals.
To summarise, the fundamental concept is to consume sufficient protein to maintain your lean mass while shedding body fat. By targeting a specific gram quantity of protein in each meal, you can increase the overall proportion of protein in your diet.
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