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CHEATSHEET Protein: Why you need it & How much you need

Updated: 2 days ago

Protein is one of the most important nutrients for your health, especially if you are trying to lose fat. Protein can help you feel fuller, burn more calories, and preserve your muscle mass. Here are some of the benefits of including protein in your diet when you are trying to lose fat.

sources of protein
sources of protein

Protein helps you feel fuller for longer.

Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fat, meaning it can reduce your appetite and make you eat less calories throughout the day. Protein also helps regulate your blood sugar levels and prevent cravings and hunger spikes. Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake can help you lose weight by reducing your calorie intake and increasing your satisfaction with your meals

Protein helps you burn more calories

Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fat, meaning it requires more energy to digest and metabolize. This means that eating protein can boost your metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn by up to 100kcal per day, clearly this is not a huge amount but it all adds up. Protein also helps stimulate the production of hormones that enhance fat burning, such as growth hormone and glucagon.

Protein helps you preserve your muscle mass

When you lose weight, you don’t just lose fat, but also some muscle tissue. This can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to maintain your weight loss. However, eating enough protein can help prevent muscle loss and promote muscle growth, especially if you combine it with strength training. Protein provides the building blocks for your muscles and helps repair them after exercise. Studies have shown that a high protein diet can help preserve lean body mass and increase fat loss compared to a low protein diet

How much protein do I Need?

As you can see, protein is a key factor for successful fat loss. It can help you eat less, burn more, and keep your muscles strong and healthy. To reap these benefits, aim to get 25% to 30% of your calories from protein, or 1–1.2 g/kg of your ideal body weight per day - for most women a good number to aim for is 100g of protein a day. You can get protein from a variety of sources, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, and soy products. You can also use protein supplements (e.g., protein powder made from whey) if you need extra convenience or variety. It is a good idea to use a food tracker like MyFitnessPal or Nutracheck to understand how much protein is in your diet as the weight of your "meat” or other protein source is not the same as the amount of protein it contains e.g. a typical chicken breast weighs about 125g and provides about 39g of protein.

To enable your body to take the maximum advantage from the protein you eat you need to spread your intake out over the day. Taking 25-30g per meal with a protein focussed snack thrown in is a good way to achieve this in 3-4 doses a day. This optimises muscle protein synthesis to help you retain and build muscles which is so important when trying to lose fat.

What are some good sources of protein?

Protein can be found in both animal and plant foods. Some examples of high-protein foods are:

  • Meat: beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, etc.

  • Fish: salmon, tuna, cod, sardines, etc.

  • Eggs: whole eggs or egg whites

  • Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.

  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc.

  • Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, etc.

  • Beans: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, etc.

  • Lentils: red lentils, green lentils, brown lentils, etc.

  • Soy: tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, etc.

  • Quinoa: a gluten-free grain that contains all nine essential amino acids

It is recommended to eat a variety of protein sources to get all the essential amino acids that our body cannot make on its own. Animal proteins tend to have a higher biological value than plant proteins, which means that they contain more of the essential amino acids that our body needs. However, plant proteins can also provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids if they are combined with complementary foods. For example, beans and rice or peanut butter and bread are examples of complementary plant proteins.

Recipe Inspiration to get more protein in your diet

If you need more help or inspiration to get more protein in your diet, we have some high protein recipes in our members area to inspire you, the BBC Good Food and Olive websites both have good high protein recipe collection. If you have any favourite high protein snacks or recipes of your own please share them in the comments below.

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