The Power of Protein: Eat More, Weigh Less!
Posted by Casey Nicole on August 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM
While Atkins is definitely not the end-all, be-all of diets, if there is an important lesson to learn from low-carb diets, it’s the importance of protein. Even if you’ve cut down on carbs, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting enough protein.
Women often focus on calorie counts when dieting, which is why they are likely quick to cut protein because they perceive it as high in calories and/or fattening. Plus, protein isn’t as portable as other foods. You’re not going to carry a grilled chicken breast around in your purse like you would an apple or granola bar. This may help explain why a third of women between the ages of 20 and 40 don’t get their recommended daily servings of protein.
To illustrate the importance of protein, consider this: A John Hopkins University study found that a diet in which roughly a quarter of the calories (about 60 percent more than the recommended 10 to 15 percent) come from lean protein sources reduced blood pressure, LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and triglycerides better than a traditional higher-carb diet. Other research finds that diets rich in protein can help prevent obesity, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
The Skinny on Protein
The moment you eat protein, it starts whittling your waistline. It’s proven that high-protein foods take more effort to digest, metabolize, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them. So, don’t be deterred by the “extra” calories in proteins compared to fruit and veggies, just remember you’ll automatically be burning simply by digesting protein. Also, since protein takes longer to leave your stomach, you’ll feel fuller sooner and for a longer amount of time, which is why it’s so important to load up on protein for breakfast.
In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of their diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories a day and lost about 11 pounds over the 12-week study without employing any other dietary measures.
Like any successful dieter, or someone just maintaining a healthy figure, you’re also consistently working out, which means you need protein to make sure you lose fat, not muscle. Your body uses the amino acids found in protein to build lean muscle, which will not only keep you stronger and more toned, but also burns more calories even when you’re not active. Ultimately, this keeps your metabolism consistently boosted.
Pump It Up
Experts advise consuming between 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. So, between 70 to 140 grams for a 140-pound woman. Skew on the high end if you’re very active and on the low end if you’re trying to lose weight, but if both apply just shoot for an amount near the middle.
More importantly, make it a priority to get at least 30 of those grams of protein at breakfast. (For example, two eggs and a cup of cottage cheese would be adequate.) After fasting all night, your body may start drawing on muscle tissue for fuel if you don’t get in some protein in the AM. Plus, a protein-rich breakfast can help regulate your appetite all day long.
Not all Protein is Created Equal
Nuts, whole grains, and veggies technically count as protein, but they don’t contain all nine of the amino acids your body needs in order to build lean muscle. Pair incomplete proteins for more nutritional benefits.
Complete proteins are typically found in animal products, and your best healthy bets include: skinless white chicken or turkey, seafood, low-fat dairy, pork tenderloin and lean beef.
You can even find vegetarian-friendly complete proteins too! Just try: tofu, hemp seed, buckwheat, and quinoa.
When You’re On the Go, Try These Portable Protein Options
- Jerky (1 ounce = 9.4 grams protein)
- Roasted Soy Nuts (1/4 cup = 17 grams)
- Protein Powder (4 tablespoon scoop = 16 grams)
- Energy Bars (1 bar = 10-12 grams)
- Hard-boiled Eggs (1 egg = 6 grams)
- String Cheese (1 stick = 8 grams)
How do you get your RDA of protein? Did you realize just how beneficial it is to your diet?