Protein and Weight Loss: The Needed Nutrient for a Successful Diet
When it comes to protein and weight loss, there are still many skeptics out there who think protein’s role is overrated when it comes to successful dieting.
On the contrary, protein and weight loss can build a successful relationship together if you include this needed nutrient in your diet.
“Your metabolism requires adequate lean protein in your diet if you are trying to lose weight,” says Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., a board-certified bariatric physician, and the founding physician behind bistroMD.
Metabolism is the process of breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to yield the energy your body needs in order to maintain itself. Protein’s role in your body’s ability to lose weight is vital.
“When it comes to weight loss, the body cannot store ‘extra’ protein. You cannot eat protein all at once, like most people do at dinner. Protein should be properly portioned throughout each of your meals during the day, in combination with other essential nutrients,” says Dr. Cederquist.
Why Is Protein So Important?
Protein is essential for weight loss because your metabolism needs energy from the foods you consume to burn excess stored fat. Protein also needs to be well-balanced with other nutrients in your diet, including carbohydrates and healthy fats.
“Even to function at a minimal level, our bodies first use available carbohydrates, then protein, and last turn to our fat stores for energy,” says Dr. Cederquist. “The very process of burning body fat requires the presence of protein and carbohydrates. If these nutrients are not included in your diet, your body will break down lean body tissue for the protein, and convert it into carbohydrates for energy.”
Without this adequate balance of nutrients in your diet, your metabolism won’t have the stamina it needs to burn fat effectively.
Watch this exclusive video of Dr. Cederquist below, explaining the importance of including protein in your diet:
Are All Proteins Created Equal?
If protein and weight loss don’t work together appropriately, your body will turn to vital tissues and organs as energy sources.
When this happens, your body can actually perceive this as a threat to survival, which slows down your metabolism. This causes the body to use less energy overall.
The great thing about protein and weight loss is that it can curb hard-to-resist food cravings, while helping you lose weight at the same time.
As far as protein and weight loss are concerned, your metabolism will only burn fat if you are giving your body the right kind of protein.
“There are both complete and incomplete proteins that we can get through diet,” says Dr. Cederquist. “Foods that contain all essential amino acids are considered to be complete proteins. These food sources include mostly animal proteins like chicken and fish. If you are a vegetarian, you can also get protein from a variety of vegetables, and other food sources, including eggs, soy, and dairy products.”
How Does the Fat-Burning Cycle Work?
Since our bodies are unable to store extra protein we must provide our system with protein throughout the day by eating a well balanced diet. Protein plays an important role when it comes to burning fat, because it contains essential amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Without essential amino acids, your body will actually store more fat. If you eat foods with protein, the amino acids you take in will help stabilize your metabolism and help burn fat.
“There are eight essential amino acids that your body needs to burn fat,” says Dr. Cederquist. “Most of these amino acids can be found in a variety of high-protein foods. They can help you lose weight, and give you additional health benefits.”
Here is a list of essential amino acids that should be included in your diet:
1. Isoleucine: Found in fish, meats and cheeses, this amino acid assists in energy production.
2. Leucine: Mostly found in poultry and red meats, this amino acid can be metabolized to produce energy.
3. Lysine: Found in fish, meats and dairy products, Lysine helps absorb calcium in the intestinal tract, promotes bone growth, and helps in the formation of collagen.
4. Methionine: Mostly found in eggs and fish, foods contain less amounts of methionine than any of the other essential amino acids, but can be converted into energy.
5. Phenylalaine: Found in meats and milk products, this amino acid is extremely important because of its ability to affect brain chemistry.
6. Theronine: Found in mostly animal proteins, dairy foods and eggs, this amino acid assists in the formation of tooth enamel protein, elastin, and collagen.
7. Tryptophan: Also mostly found in animal proteins, dairy products and nuts, this amino acid is a precursor to serotonin, which influences mood and sleep.
Without protein, we don’t get these essential amino acids. This lack of amino acids can have a negative impact on our health and weight loss goals.
“If there is a deficiency of dietary protein, the body essentially cannibalizes its lean muscle tissue for the energy to burn fat mass,” says Dr. Cederquist. “This is why protein plays such an important role in your diet. Consuming adequate amounts of protein spread throughout the day prevents our bodies from turning to lean tissues for energy, and helps keep metabolism optimal.”