The Truth About Protein and Weight Loss
Are you eating enough protein?
It seems like a simple question, but if you work out regularly (and even if you are trying to lose weight), it’s worth checking out.
Protein Intake Made Easy
Why? Well, you need protein not only for muscle synthesis, but also to build bones, blood, hormones, and
There are lots of ways to calculate your protein needs. I’ll just give you the top three:
– By body weight: Endurance athletes should eat 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per
day. Strength athletes need more: 1.6 to 1.7 grams.
– Percentage of your total calories: For protein, it’s 15 to 20 percent.
– “Ounce equivalents” (from the government’s ChooseMyPlate.gov): Adults need between 5 and 6 ounce
equivalents each day. One ounce equivalent is equal to 1 ounce of meat, 1 egg, 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds, or
1 tablespoon of peanut butter.
All of those ways get you the same results, although with the first two, you need to do a little bit of math.
The third one, ounce equivalents, is a good way to “eyeball” your protein needs. What’s listed above, though,
is for people who don’t get a lot of exercise.
So if you’re doing intense workouts like P90X or Insanity, then you may need to increase your protein intake a little.
Another option—and personally I like this one—is to use the nutrition guide that comes with some workout
programs—like Insanity or Jillian Michaels Body Revolution. That way, you’re certain to nail your protein
goals every time.
What is the Truth?
Protein is important to keep in mind for a healthy individual.
Why? Well, if you’re like me and you want to stay fit and active, you need muscle … which means you need
protein to build that muscle.
I broke down above three ways to determine how much protein you need to eat to build enough
muscle to survive intense exercise programs like Les Mills and RushFit.
But eating protein-rich foods is not always about beefing up, it’s also about losing weight safely.
Sometimes, when people try to lose weight, they start eating lots of vegetables. They’re low calorie, low
fat, full of nutrients, and high in fiber (which means you fill up quickly) … so why not?
There’s nothing wrong with eating more vegetables. But when you’re losing weight, you can lose both fat and
In order to keep from losing any muscle mass during weight loss, you need to do two things: 1) some form of
regular resistance exercise and 2) eat enough protein.
Resistance exercise is easy. There are dozens of excellent workout programs that give you resistance exercise
along with intense cardio for maximum fat burning and muscle building—just a couple are Jillian Michael’s
Body Revolution or ChaLEAN.
Why Not All Protein Is the Same
Okay, the truth is, all protein really is the same, no matter where you get it.
But, unless you’re living off some futuristic pill form of food, when you eat protein you get a whole lot of
other things along with it.
Which, as you might have guessed, can be both good and bad.
Two of the good nutrients that “ride along” with the protein in meat and dairy products are B vitamins and
B vitamins are needed by the body to release energy from food, as well as to build red blood cells and
Iron is used in the red blood cells to carry oxygen in the blood.
(For more about vitamins, check out these 8 Power Foods.)
But, protein-rich foods can also contain other things that we are better off avoiding—or at least limiting in
One of these is saturated fat. This is found in most meats and dairy products to some degree. Eating too much
saturated fat has been linked to diabetes and heart disease.
To avoid getting too much saturated fat in your diet, try these high-protein, low-saturated fat foods:
– leaner cuts of beef and pork
– skinless chicken and turkey
– steamed shrimp
– fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like trout and salmon,
– beans, peas, and soy products
– unsalted nuts
To see how to spread these healthy protein-rich foods out throughout the day for maximal muscle synthesis, check out my post on balancing your protein intake.