Protein As Your Secret Weapon

When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic potion or one-size-fits-all formula.  The good news is that we have some secret weapons in our battle of the bulge.  One of these weight loss weapons is protein. You may have heard the term “high protein” mentioned before, usually paired with “low carb,” when it comes to dieting.  This often brings to mind plates of bacon and eggs or a big, meaty steak with no bread, grains or fruit in sight.  Talk to almost any registered dietitian, and you’ll find out that this is not what he or she would recommend for healthy and sustainable weight loss.

However, there may be something to those higher protein diets.  With their explosion in popularity over the last couple of decades, researchers have tuned in and started taking a closer look.  The news is promising.  The findings of these studies point to several benefits of moderately increased protein in a calorie controlled diet, including:

  • Increased Satiety: Protein seems to have a greater prolonged ability to satisfy hunger when compared to the same number of calories consumed in carbohydrates or fat.
  • Increased Thermogenesis—In other words, creating more heat and boosting your energy (calorie) expenditure.  This boost is also key to satiety.
  • Maintenance of Lean Muscle—Muscle burns more calories than fat; however, dieting is often linked to a loss of lean mass along with fat.  A moderately higher protein diet may help you retain more of that lean muscle.
  • Reduced Triglycerides and Blood Pressure – In addition to the more weight-specific findings, one meta-analysis study (a study of several completed studies) found reductions in triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference when a higher protein diet was followed.  This is great news for your heart health!

One of the studies summarized the findings as, “Although any dietary or lifestyle change must be personalized, controlled energy intake in association with a moderately elevated protein intake may represent an effective and practical weight-loss strategy.”  That’s good news for those seeking smart strategies to achieve a healthy weight.
Don’t be too quick to start loading your plate up with bacon and eggs just yet, though!  To get started:

  • Work with a registered dietitian to determine the best protein level for you and your goals. 
  • Focus on lean proteins, such as seafood, poultry, tofu and legumes.
  • Don’t cut all carbs.  Reduce refined carbs, such as white breads and sweets, in favor of more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

When eating out, focus on higher protein choices, paired with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to stay on track for weight loss success.