Yes, cutting carbs and calories will make a big difference in the numbers on the scale, but adding proteins will make a bigger one
I have an eighteen-year-old son who has lost over seventy pounds in the last nine months. He’s become quite obsessive about nutrition and workouts and looking at him, I completely understand his compulsion. He’s like a different person, both on the inside and out. He has more confidence and his habits and disposition have completely changed for the better.
To keep his weight loss going, he reads up on just about everything related to food and how it affects his body’s abilities to let go of fat and build muscle. As a result of his extensive research, his conversations with me now typically revolve around these subjects. And although Call of Duty is still one of his favorite topics, there is one word that has taken over his vocabulary: protein.
He knows that I am also a bit obsessive over my weight, and every day, I am browbeaten for my eating habits (or lack thereof). I wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee, but the rest of the day? Nothing. Until about five o clock. I tell my son that no calories mean no weight gain, right? His response to this statement is a vehement no.
And the truth is that my “semi-starvation diet” has not been working for me, and the pounds are creeping up rather than running away. So I decided to do some research and from what I’ve read, there is a bit of magic in this word protein.
Here what I found out.
Protein suppresses your appetite
There are two main hormones that determine your feelings of hunger: ghrelin and leptin. Web MD summarizes these two hormones in their relationship to appetite. They state: “Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight.”
I did numerous studies on whether or not eating a high protein diet affected these two hormones, and the studies I read indicated that not only did it have an effect on body weight, it had a significant one.
Men’s Journal cites research by the Society for Endocrinology to help explain protein’s power to influence these two hormones. For example, eating a high protein diet causes a chemical reaction in the body whose by-product is phenylalanine, a type of amino acid, and scientific research on this chemical has shown that it significantly reduces appetite by increasing the production of leptin.
The article details a study where rats were given phenylalanine over the span of a week. The findings were that “after a single dose of phenylalanine, the rodents experienced a decrease in their typical food intake, increased levels of the hunger-curbing hormone GLP-1, and diminished levels of appetite-spiking ghrelin.”
Another study published in the National Library of Medicine found that participants who ate a higher protein diet “spontaneously ate 400 fewer calories each day, despite having no restrictions on the rest of their diet.”
This doesn’t change the fact that some individuals feel they can only praise the benefits of high protein intake if eating these foods is in conjunction with the lowering of carbohydrate intake, an idea perpetuated in diet trends such as the Keto diet.
However, information published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports a study whose findings were that an increase in dietary protein “resulted in rapid losses of weight and body fat” with “no reduction in dietary carbohydrate content.” The researchers’ beliefs were that this “favorable change in body composition was due to a sustained decrease in appetite [brought on by a high protein diet].”
Protein boosts your metabolism
An article written by two members of the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine explains the effects of eating more protein in its connection to the process of thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the amount of energy expended by the body when it processes nutrients through the digestion of food.
Their extensive research studies and corresponding statistical analysis indicated that “high protein diets can favorably alter the energy balance equation” and “increase the thermic effect.”
In other words, your body expends more heat and energy digesting proteins than it does with other foods, thus increasing your body’s overall ability to consistently burn more calories.
The “enhanced satiety [that comes with eating protein]allows for decreased food intake while an increased thermic effect allows for greater calorie output.”
Simple ways to get more protein in your diet
A simple online search will provide you with numerous lists of high protein foods, but here are some of the ones I found appearing most often.
- lean chicken breast, pork, or beef
- lima beans
- brussels sprouts
- pinto beans
- green peas
- sweet corn
- collard greens
- sweet potatoes
Nuts and Seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- beef sticks
- cottage cheese
- an apple with peanut butter
- protein bars
- string cheese
- fruit and nut snack bars
The bottom line:
The research is definitely in, and adding more protein to your diet seems to be an easy way to help keep the pounds off. However, remember that calories and fat content matter too, so a careful look at those numbers is essential as well.
The bottom line is that you deserve to have a body that gives you energy, keeps you healthy, and helps you look the way you want it to. Protein is important, but as with everything in life, a special balance is required for optimal success.
Planning ahead and having easy access to these foods will help you make better choices, and when you combine this strategy with things such as added movement, proper sleep, and acts of self-care to help you manage your emotions, you’ll look and feel more fabulous.
Some added inspiration?
Beach season is approaching and though a mask may hide your face, everyone will get to see the beautiful changes you’ve made in your body. And the most important person who’ll marvel at your body will be you.