“Eat more protein and go on a high protein diet plan”, said my gym instructor when I complained that I was not losing enough fat, nor was I gaining the lean muscles that I wanted to. He said it almost matter-of-factly, but it sent me thinking; are high protein foods the key to weight loss and muscle gain?
I bet you have heard the same, you probably have heard about variations of the same diet, the Paleo diet or the Atkins diet. All these diets propagate the same high-protein, low carb, funda that promises you a svelte body in no time. Do I sound skeptical? Well, I am skeptical, aren’t you too? When do you hear about fad diets that promise you just what you want in a short time? Let’s not give out the verdict, before evaluating it good and proper. Let’s discuss the high-protein diet and find out whether it is indeed the best diet to lose weight.
What does eating a high-protein diet mean? Eating a “high protein” basically means getting as good as 30% of your daily calories purely from protein. Protein is an important part of your macronutrient needs, but your multifaceted nutritional system is so much more than that. I mean can you just eat protein all day every day? Not really, so besides concentrating on the eating aspect of it and to know how it helps you lose weight, you also focus on the absorption aspect of it. Food is majorly about these three important macro-nutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats.
The truth is, you need all 3 in adequate doses unless of course, you have a specific medical condition. If you need your body to function in optimal condition, you require all three and in a proper balance.
If you want to lose weight, you have to go by the age-old formula which has always worked; eat fewer calories and according to your activity levels. Now, if you have a desk job and you spend the better part of the day eating calories, you are doing it all wrong. Similarly, if you are an athlete and you are eating very few calories, you are again, yes you guessed it right, doing it all wrong. Burn more than the intake of calories.
The next question buzzing in your mind is how much you should eat? To determine that, calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate and your activity (Include your movement, eating, and exercise). Suppose you eat 2000 calories a day, you need to burn about 2000 calories a day if you want to stay in the same weight. If you want to lose weight, you have to form a calorie deficit. Eat lesser than you burn. So, eat only about 1800 calories per day. So, that’s it? You have figured it all? Not so fast, do you want to lose weight only? Or do you want to pack in some lean muscles as well? And while you are at it, you also want to improve your body composition; you know more muscle and less fat. So, for that, you need to balance out your macro-nutrients. So, enter the superstar of the day! Time to say hello to protein!
Protein is required, okay we get that, but pray why do we need that? Don’t worry, we will explain that as well. Proteins are broken down into smaller units, known as amino acids. And there are 22 amino acids, among which 9 are absolutely essential and we must replenish our body’s need for them as our body cannot produce them, on its own.
So, you need to add more protein-rich foods such as eggs, fish, and meat and so on. Vegetarians do not despair as you have many options as well, which can be included in the list of a high-protein vegetarian diet for weight loss. Foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, and tofu. Don’t have too much of one food but enough of a variety of foods. Add adequate sources of both plant-based and animal-based foods. Protein is not only about weight-loss you see, it also has an essential role to play and it includes every structure and function of your body.
Yes, protein is important for myriad reasons, we are a listing out a few here, take a look.
When it comes to your weight, your brain has a huge role to play. Okay when we say brain, we mean a specific part or area known as the hypothalamus. So, this fellow here, the hypothalamus, pulls the strings when it comes to eating, now you know whom to blame when you eat a little more (or say a lot more) than you ideally should. It operates the eating department and processes different types of information.
There are hormones that send signals to the brain that impact your response to feeding. So, if you up your protein intake, you curb your appetite and raise your satiety levels and reduce the hunger hormones known as ghrelin. So when you substitute your carbs and fat with the protein, you curb hunger and increase satiety.
Once you eat, you use some calories for digesting and metabolizing the food. This is also known as the thermic effect of food. It is true that protein’s thermic effect is more than either carbs or fat. That means about 20-30% of protein calories are utilized for digesting and metabolizing the protein.
Since protein causes the thermic effect, it helps boost metabolism. Owing to the high thermic effect and several other factors, a high protein intake tends to boost metabolism. What’s more? Protein offers round-the-clock fat burning qualities, even when you sleep! A high-protein diet burns about 80 to 100 calories a day. This holds true when you overfeed or eat at a calorific surplus. So when you eat more calories you burn almost 260 calories more! So, protein boosts your metabolism, period.
Protein can switch off your hunger hormones. Now, that is not just a tall claim, but there is also truth in that statement. So, once your hunger hormones stop crying foul every time you zip your mouth and not eat, you end up reducing the calorie intake. So, once protein becomes the focal point of all your dishes, it helps you keep a tab on the calories without having to actually count them. If you consistently keep your protein intake high, you’ll be able to ensure a fat loss in the long run. To sum it all up, protein is an appetite-curber in the real sense of the word and it also helps boost your metabolism.
Well, I should know that; just when I am doing well on my diet and fitness plan, eating clean and all, suddenly out of nowhere, a chocolate craving hits you and your diet goes for a toss. And whenever I hear of late-night snacking, I cover my face, ‘because I have been guilty of that as well. And those late-night cravings are never for some healthy foodstuff. They always mean that decadent piece of brownie is calling out to you or that sumptuous choco chip ice cream! Fall into temptation and your diet falls off track. Interestingly, you can put an end to all those cravings, once you start eating more protein. Especially your last meal of the day should be protein-rich, which will help curb hunger pangs and also control late night snacking. Yes, a protein diet will help you achieve that and more.
Before we start discussing how protein helps stop the metabolic slowdown that happens with age, we need to discuss how protein helps you not only lose weight, but it also helps you lose fat. So, you may lose weight but you do not lose the muscle mass, which you need to stop muscle breakdown. Losing body fat is the best way to stay fit and ward off diseases. By losing body fat we mean the subcutaneous fat, fat under the skin and the harmful visceral fat, the fat around your organs.
People want to lose weight, but they also want to pack in the long lean muscles that give them the extra toned look that everyone desires. Losing weight also slows down the metabolic rate, it almost comes to a snail’s pace when you lose a lot of weight. In fact, and it becomes slower still than the time when you started your weight loss journey. This is also known as the ‘starvation mode.’
So, you end up burning fewer calories every day. The only way to stop that is by increasing the amount of protein and this keeps your metabolic rate high as you tend to lose more fat. You can also complement your protein diet for weight loss with a proper strength-training routine. Combining the two makes for an incredibly powerful tool to combat weight gain. So, instead of looking ‘skinny-fat’ you look lean, the much-preferred look for most fat-loss and weight-loss seekers.
It is about 46 and 56 grams for the average woman and man, respectively, according to the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake). This amount is ideal only to prevent a deficiency for more optimal results. To gain muscle and lose weight, you need more of this all-important nutrient. Eating 30% of your calories from protein sources sounds like the perfect fat loss game-plan. So, how can you calculate your daily protein intake? You can find the number of grams by just multiplying your calorie intake by 0.075. So, when you are eating a 2000 calorie diet you get 150 grams of protein, you multiply it by 0.075, i.e. 2000 * 0.075. Also, many nutritionists advise you to get 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass. It is important that you spread the protein intake all-throughout the day instead of eating all your protein in one single meal.
Alright, now we know that in order to improve upon our current muscle mass we need to have more protein. But you also have to eat fewer calories than you expend and eating more protein can help you achieve that. But, what is the best Indian high protein food list for weight loss? Find out right here and we have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods in this list, for you.
Surprised that I have put Spinach before eggs? Only because of its exemplary nutrition profile. Besides, the protein it also contains large amounts of vitamin A and C, antioxidants and also heart-healthy folate. Hence, spinach makes for a great source of weight loss food.
Eggs are love, and without it, our breakfasts would never be the same again. The egg contains essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, selenium, vitamin B2 and so on.
Broccoli is another great protein source and with that, it contains magnesium, vitamin B1 and omega-3 fatty acids that help shed the extra kilos and should be part of your high-protein vegetarian diet for weight loss.
Legumes are a great source of protein and chickpeas is a front-runner in that list. It is full of fiber and hence keeps you full for long hours, thus enabling weight loss.
The cottage cheese is as healthy as it is tasty and since vegetarians think that there are not enough protein sources for their consumption, they can make this an integral part of their diet.
Lentils are another fantastic source of protein, and what’s more, it is a good source of fiber as well. It also contains generous amounts of magnesium and iron.
Okay, did you know this? A cup of peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. Pea protein is big and in fact huge in the nutrition market. There are food companies that are packaging it for people and need we say, they’re lapping it up! Now you know why.
Chicken is delicious and nutritious as well when you cook it the right way. So, that means you need to roast it or grill it instead of frying it to make the most of its protein content.
Grains, read whole grains are great sources of protein. Grains such as oats, quinoa, and millets and so on are packed with protein and fiber and keeps you full for longer hours.
Dairy, especially yogurt is a great protein source. It helps that it is probiotic-rich and keeps your gut super-healthy, enabling you to lose the extra pounds.
A handful of almonds is a healthy way to up your protein quotient. Its rich in valuable nutrients and the nutritious nuts come packed with protein that helps you lose weight.
Chia seeds are a great way to upgrade the protein content of your salads and smoothies and add an interesting texture to your food as well. These tiny black seeds add great value to your foods and packs in a powerful nutritional punch.
Soy milk is another great addition to your diet as it contains an adequate amount of protein, improves your cardiovascular health and also helps reduce postmenopausal problems. It is a must-include supplement for a plant-based diet as it is rich in protein and vitamin.
If you are still wondering whether adding enough protein to your diet can help you knock off those extra pounds and keep em’ off for good, the answer is yes. A big, mighty, and resounding yes! A high protein diet helps you lose weight and sculpt the body of your dreams. So, you not only lose weight but also improve your health and your life.
Consult a nutritionist to know about the exact amount of protein you require for your health and to accomplish your weight loss goals.
Devi Gajendran is a Post Graduate in Nutrition (University of Madras, Tamil Nadu) and has tons of experience in Fitness and Nutrition. She is the chief advisor and full time contributor at the Fit Indian and has the final say on all the segments under the Fit Indian paradigm, such as beauty, fitness, home remedies, diseases, diet tips, weight loss, weight gain and so on. A foodie herself, she believes in the Hippocrates quote,” Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” A fitness enthusiast, she believes that the combination of diet and exercise can work wonders. When she is not sharing her valuable knowledge about food and fitness, she likes to spend quality time with her family members, do some healthy baking and listen to soft soulful music.
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