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Protein is an essential part of your diet. You knew that, right? But did you know that increasing your protein intake can also help with weight loss?
Why You Need Protein
Scientists estimate that there are anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 different proteins in the human body. Your body uses the protein you eat to make things like digestive enzymes as well hormones to regulate appetite. Protein is also used to build and repair tissues.
Protein is a major component of:
- Hair, nails, skin
- Red blood cells
- Connective tissue
How Can It Help You Lose Weight?
Though eating protein alone won’t help you lose weight in an optimal way, it can keep you healthy in your weight loss journey in several ways. It helps you:
- Feel Satisfied: Protein helps you feel full longer and slows down digestion. This helps you feel more satiated and might keep you from going back for seconds or eating more later.
- Avoid Highs and Lows: Pairing protein with carbohydrates slows sugar absorption from your stomach into your bloodstream, keeping your blood sugar levels stable. This might help you avoid cravings that happen when blood sugar levels drop.
- Burn More Energy: Protein takes more energy to digest than carbs and fat because it needs to be broken into small, absorbable components. Your body has to work harder to digest protein, thus using more energy.
- Burn Fat Instead of Muscle: Your body needs proteins or carbohydrates to burn fat. If you’re losing weight, you want to make sure you are eating enough protein to help burn the fat while keeping muscle tissues healthy.
- Keep Your Muscles in Top Shape: When you’re losing weight, you want to lose fat, not muscle. To keep your muscles at peak condition while the weight comes off, eat protein, to help your muscles repair and grow.
How Can You Get the Protein You Need?
Your best bet is to eat protein throughout the day, not just at mealtime. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of protein as the “meat” in your meals, something that has to be cooked and is labor-intensive to prepare. There are excellent ways to get protein in a snack that’s easy to eat throughout the day, even when you’re at work or on the go.
Here are some suggestions:
- Hard boiled eggs: about 7g protein per egg
- Roasted garbanzo beans: about 15g per cup
- String cheese: about 8g protein per stick
- Protein shake: about 15g protein per shake (depending on powder—read the label carefully)
- Individually packaged nut butters: about 8g protein per pack
- Milk: about 8g per cup
- Jerky (try to find the lower sodium options): about 10g protein per ounce
- Roasted pumpkin seeds: about 12g per cup
- Edamame: about 15g per cup
Making protein a part of every meal and snack is an important piece of weight management. Shoot for 20-30 grams of protein in each meal and 10-15 grams in each snack.
Want to learn more about how protein can help you shed those unwanted pounds AND keep them off? Check out the article 3 Steps to Weight Loss: Protein Intake.