Do You Need Protein To Lose Weight?
Protein is the most popular macronutrient in the fitness industry as you may have noticed. It is often promoted as an important nutrient that not only builds muscle but also promotes weight loss. There are a countless number of options out there and with new research being shared every single day, so many of you might be wondering the same things: Do you need protein to lose weight? Is it really that essential for muscle growth? What does protein actually do?
Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. It’s also responsible for the growth and repair of other tissues within the body, as well as being a key factor in many other body processes.
Protein is made up amino acids. The body can create most of the amino acids required, but the 9 amino acids that can’t be created by the body need to be consumed via the food we eat. This is important because not all sources of protein contain a full amino acid profile.
Protein and muscle growth
As mentioned, protein is important for building and repairing muscle. When you’re working out at the gym, training with weights, in particular, your muscles incur damage. It is from your body repairing this damage that you will experience muscle growth. Without sufficient protein, your body doesn’t have what it needs to properly repair the muscle. By consuming enough protein, and protein that comes from good sources, your body will repair the damage and start building lean muscle tissue.
Protein and weight loss
By increasing the amount of lean muscle mass you have, your body will burn more fat. This comes down to the lean muscle mass raising your basal metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories at rest. As well as this, having more muscle and training to increase your strength will result in you burning more calories simply due to you progressing. Generally, the stronger you become in the gym, the heavier you will lift if you’re training strength for example. The harder you work, the more calories you burn.
That’s all well and good, but where does protein come into this? Good question. Protein is one of the hardest nutrients for your body to break down. This, in turn, leads to your body requiring more energy to break down the protein, resulting in more calories burnt. Protein also reduces cravings and keeps you fuller for a longer period of time. If you do have a problem with over-eating, increasing your protein intake may be the answer. You should of course always consult your health care professional first, as this is a general assumption based on how protein impacts your eating habits. It may be different for different people.
Foods containing protein
There are a large variety of foods that contain protein. Contrary to popular belief, whether you eat meat or you don’t, there are so many different foods that contain protein. Vegans and vegetarians might need to make more of an effort to incorporate the protein they need into their diet, but it’s not actually as hard as many people might think. Foods that contain high levels of protein include the following;
- Meat, poultry and fish
- Beans and lentils
- Soy products such as tofu
- Nuts, seeds and nut butter
- Protein powders
Plant-based protein sources often have less protein per gram compared to animal-based protein, and they usually don’t have a full amino acid profile. This doesn’t mean that plant-based sources of protein aren’t good enough, you generally just need a variety of plant-based protein foods to receive the same benefits.
Do you need protein powder to reach your goals?
Many people wonder whether they need a protein supplement when they workout. It’s not that a protein shake is better than other sources of protein or that you need a massive amount of protein to see results. A protein supplement just makes getting enough protein in easy.
You want to be careful when choosing a protein supplement and make sure that they are low in sugar and don’t have anything added to them. You might even consider getting a protein that is low in calories/kilojoules even if you are trying to gain muscle. The low energy, sugar-free protein powders are generally the cleanest and will provide you with lean muscle gain, without gaining excess fat.
How much protein do you need?
Assuming that you have your answer to the question “Do you need protein?”, you may now be wondering “How much?”
It’s worth mentioning is that your body can only absorb a certain amount, roughly 20g of protein every 2-3 hours. Certain protein shake servings or people within the fitness community recommend that you have double, even triple that every few hours. While exceeding the 20g every 2-3 hours doesn’t actually result in your body discarding all of the excesses as some people claim, it also doesn’t really benefit your muscle growth either.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s ideal protein intake will vary based on gender, age, activity level and more. 20g might be the right amount for one person while being either too much or too little for another.
If you need some more in-depth information on how protein fits into your overall diet, I have provided you with exactly that. Click the link below to download your free macronutrient guide!