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Interview: 4 ways protein aids weight loss

Protein foods
Protein foods
Mark Dilworth

Interview with: Jayson Hunter RD, CSCS

Interviewed by: Mark Dilworth, BA, PES

This interview will answer important questions about the role of protein in your diet.

Q: What's the most common question you get asked regarding protein?

A: "Why do I need protein? Isn't this only if I want to be a weightlifter or bodybuilder?"

Now public perception for many years was that increased protein intake was only for those looking to build muscle and not for those looking to just get in shape or to lose weight.

Research over the years has slowly told us otherwise and the word is finally getting out that increased protein is also very beneficial for those looking to get in shape and, more importantly, to lose weight.

Q: Why does protein matter so much when it comes to weight loss?

A: Protein is a major contributor to your successful weight loss. A term that is still quite uncommon is "thermic effect" of food. The definition of this is that your body increases its energy expenditure and calories burned when it digests and utilizes the food you eat.

Your metabolic rate increases after every meal because of this "thermic effect" that takes place as a result of the food you eat. Your body burns a different amount of calories depending on the type of macronutrient you are eating. For example, your body doesn't burn as many calories when digesting carbohydrates and fat as it does with protein.

Your body only burns about 4-7 calories for every 100 calories of carbohydrates or 100 calories of fat that you eat. If you were to eat 100 calories of protein, it would require your body to burn roughly 24-28 calories to digest that protein.

If you are looking at net calories, your body is only netting about 70% of the protein calories that you consume and netting 93-96% of the carb or fat calories you consume.

This is significant when it comes to successful weight loss.

In 2005, a study was conducted at the University of Illinois that looked at 2 diets with exercise and compared body composition in women trying to lose weight. The 2 diets were a high protein, reduced carbohydrate diet and the other one was a low protein, high carbohydrate diet.

The diets were of equal calories and lasted 4 months, but they were different in the protein quantity and the ratio of protein to carbohydrates. The exercise component was a control group of lifestyle activities vs. a supervised exercise program of strength training and cardio.

The participants in both the protein/lifestyle activities group and the protein/supervised exercise group lost more total weight and fat than the carbohydrate/lifestyle group and carb/supervised exercise group. They also lost less lean muscle.

This study along with other studies have replicated the results showing that a higher protein diet of at least 1.5gm per kg of bodyweight and a carbohydrate level of 120-200 gms per day can improve your weight loss.

Here are the top 4 reasons protein consumption is beneficial for weight loss:

1. Satiety or fullness
2. Increased metabolic rate (your metabolism is faster because of the thermic effect of food)
3. Less lean muscle loss so your body doesn't rely on protein in the muscle for energy
4. Your body uses sugars for energy instead of storing them as fat.

Here is how your body is creating these effects:

By consuming lower carbohydrates, your body ends up with lower blood glucose levels and this helps to keep your insulin levels in check so that you don't trigger fat storage.

The increased protein does a couple of things. First, you are providing your body with the Branched Chain Amino Acid Leucine, which helps to control your insulin signal and the storage of carbs as fat. Leucine also helps to create muscle protein synthesis or muscle creation.

The second thing protein provides is the stimulation of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon is a counteracting hormone to insulin and by elevating this hormone is decreases the insulin hormone. This helps to minimize the fat storage of carbs also.

Q: How much protein is enough?

A: The biggest barrier to increased protein consumption is that some are just not big meat and protein eaters, which is perfectly fine. It does make it harder to get in the suggested quantities of protein to help with your weight loss, but there are solutions.

This is where proper nutritional supplementation is beneficial for weight loss. More specifically, a high quality protein shake like Prograde protein. We specifically formulated this protein powder to be cold processed (more active and functional) and contain 5gms of Branched Chain Amino Acids, which includes Leucine, so that you can benefit from lean muscle growth, a faster metabolism and increased weight loss.

More importantly, just because you are not a big meat eater or fan of eating a lot of your protein from meat, you have alternatives.