Dieting and nutritional strategies can be controversial. However, almost everyone agrees that protein is extremely important for all of us for a variety of different reasons.
Most people eat enough protein to prevent deficiency, but some individuals would do better with a higher protein intake.
Numerous studies suggest that a high-protein diet has major benefits for weight loss and metabolic health. In this article, we help debunk the hearsay and give you the real facts.
Here are 6 science-based reasons to eat more protein.
Boosts Metabolism and Increase Fat Burning
Eating can boost your metabolism for a short while.
That’s because your body uses calories to digest and make use of the nutrients in foods. This is referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF).
However, not all foods are the same in this regard. In fact, protein has a much higher thermic effect than fat or carbs — 20–35% compared to 5–15%.
High protein intake has been shown to significantly boost metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn. This can amount to 80–100 more calories burned each day.
In fact, some research suggests you can burn even more. In one study, a high-protein group burned 260 more calories per day than a low-protein group. That’s equivalent to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise per day!
Summary: High protein intake may boost your metabolism significantly, helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
Helps Maintain Weight Loss
Because a high-protein diet boosts metabolism and leads to an automatic reduction in calorie intake and cravings, many people who increase their protein intake tend to lose weight almost instantly.
One study found that overweight women who ate 30% of their calories from protein lost 11 pounds (5 kg) in 12 weeks — though they didn’t intentionally restrict their diet.
Protein also has benefits for fat loss during intentional calorie restriction.
In a 12-month study in 130 overweight people on a calorie-restricted diet, the high-protein group lost 53% more body fat than a normal-protein group eating the same number of calories.
Of course, losing weight is just the beginning. Maintaining weight loss is a much greater challenge for most people.
A modest increase in protein intake has been shown to help with weight maintenance. In one study, increasing protein from 15% to 18% of calories reduced weight regain by 50%.
If you want to keep off excess weight, consider making a permanent increase in your protein intake.
Summary: Upping your protein intake can not only help you lose weight but keep it off in the long term.
Helps You Stay Fit As You Age
One of the consequences of ageing is that your muscles gradually weaken.
The most severe cases are referred to as age-related sarcopenia, which is one of the main causes of frailty, bone fractures, and reduced quality of life among older adults.
Eating more protein is one of the best ways to reduce age-related muscle deterioration and prevent sarcopenia.
Staying physically active is also crucial, and lifting weights or doing some sort of resistance exercise can work wonders.
Summary: Eating plenty of protein can help reduce the muscle loss associated with ageing.
Increases Muscle Mass & Strength
Protein is the building block of your muscles.
Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your muscle mass and promotes muscle growth when you do strength training.
Numerous studies show that eating plenty of protein can help increase muscle mass and strength.
If you’re physically active, lifting weights, or trying to gain muscle, you need to make sure you’re getting enough protein.
Keeping protein intake high can also help prevent muscle loss during weight loss.
Summary: Muscle is made primarily of protein. High protein intake can help you gain muscle mass and strength while reducing muscle loss during weight loss.
Good For Your Bones
An ongoing myth perpetuates the idea that protein — mainly animal protein — is bad for your bones.
This is based on the idea that protein increases acid load in the body, leading to calcium leaching from your bones in order to neutralise the acid.
However, most long-term studies indicate that protein, including animal protein, has major benefits for bone health.
People who eat more protein tend to maintain bone mass better as they age and have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures
This is especially important for women, who are at high risk of osteoporosis after menopause. Eating plenty of protein and staying active is a good way to help prevent that from happening.
Summary: People who eat more protein tend to have better bone health and a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures as they get older.
Reduces Cravings and Desire for Late-Night Snacking
A food craving is different from normal hunger.
It is not just about your body needing energy or nutrients but your brain needing a reward.
Yet, cravings can be incredibly hard to control. The best way to overcome them may be to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
One of the best prevention methods is to increase your protein intake.
One study in overweight men showed that increasing protein to 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60% and the desire to snack at night by half.
Likewise, a study in overweight adolescent girls found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced cravings and late-night snacking.
This may be mediated by an improvement in the function of dopamine, one of the main brain hormones involved in cravings and addiction.
Summary: Eating more protein may reduce cravings and desire for late-night snacking. Merely having a high-protein breakfast may have a powerful effect.
So How Much Should You Eat?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.
This amounts to:
- 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man.
- 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
Though this meager amount may be enough to prevent downright deficiency, studies show that it’s far from sufficient to ensure optimal health and body composition.
It turns out that the right amount of protein for any one individual depends on many factors, including their activity level, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health.
CLICK HERE to calculate your EXACT protein needs.