A recent research (Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine) has shown that doubling your protein intake can help you drop pounds without losing muscle mass. In one study, published in The FASEB Journal, researchers put 39 patients on a weight-loss regimen over 31 days; at first, all participants were on the same diet to maintain their current weight. After 10 days, they were split into three groups following calorie-restricted diets: those who ate the US-recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein, those who ate twice the RDA of protein, and those who ate three times the RDA of protein. The participants exercised accordingly in order to lose an average of two pounds a week. The researchers found that those who ate double the protein were able to lose fat without losing muscle mass while exercising on the diet. The participants who ate triple the amount of protein didn’t experience any more weight loss than the double group.
Reasons why protein is so prized.
1. Protein Satisfies & Saves Calories: Protein is important because it helps you feel fuller longer. Having protein around slows down digestion making us more satisfied and less likely to go back for seconds. If this happens over the course of multiple days your calorie savings can help with weight loss.
2. Curbs Carb Highs and Lows: Pairing protein with carbohydrate-rich foods slows down the absorption of sugar from your stomach into your bloodstream, which may help keep your blood sugar from skyrocketing and ward off future cravings.
3. Protein requires more of Your Energy: The “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is the energy we use to digest food into small, absorbable components. Protein has a higher TEF compared to carbs and fat meaning you’re actually burning more calories to process protein than to process the other two.
4. Fuels Fat Burning: It may be surprising, but it is a scientific fact that your body cannot effectively burn and use fat as energy if it doesn’t have help from either carbohydrate or protein. As you are losing weight, your body loses both muscle and fat. During this process it is especially important that you continue to eat enough protein in your diet. Having adequate protein coming in from your food fuels fat burning while preserving calorie-burning lean muscle.
5. Promotes Muscle Growth & Repair: Your protein needs increase especially after bouts of intense exercise so increasing your protein intake on days that you exercise is beneficial. Additionally, if you strength train consider having a high protein snack right after a training session when the muscle is sensitive to nutrients that it can use to repair and grow.
One important thing to realize is eating more protein alone won’t necessarily help you shed excess weight in a healthy way. When consumed in excessive amounts it can still lead to weight gain much like eating excess carbs or fat would, and could put unnecessary strain on the kidneys over a long period of time.