Most people eat enough protein to prevent deficiency, but some individuals would do better with a much higher protein intake. Numerous studies suggest that a high-protein diet has major benefits for weight loss & metabolic health.
Here are some science-based reasons to eat more protein.
REDUCES APPETITE & HUNGER LEVELS
The three macronutrients — fats, carbs, and protein — affect your body in different ways.
Studies show that protein is by far the most filling, it helps you feel more full — with less food.
This is partly because protein reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. It also boosts the levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full.
These effects on appetite can be powerful. In one study, increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories resulted in overweight women eat 441 fewer calories each day without intentionally restricting anything.
If you need to lose weight or belly fat, consider replacing some of your carbs and fats with protein. It can be as simple as making your potato or rice serving smaller while adding a few extra bites of meat or fish.
INCREASES MUSCLE MASS & STRENGTH
Protein is the building block of your muscles. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your muscle mass & promotes muscle growth when you do strength training. Numerous studies show that eating plenty of protein can help increase muscle mass & strength. If you're physically active, lifting weights, or trying to gain muscle, you need to make sure you're getting enough protein. Keeping protein intake high can also help prevent muscle loss during weight loss.
GOOD FOR YOUR BONES
Long-term studies indicate that protein has major benefits for bone health. People who eat more protein tend to maintain bone mass better as they age & have a much lower risk of osteoporosis & fractures.
This is especially important for women, who are at high risk of osteoporosis after menopause. Eating plenty of protein & staying active is a good way to help prevent that from happening.
REDUCES CRAVINGS & DESIRE FOR LATE-NIGHT SNACKING
A food craving is different from normal hunger. It is not just about your body needing energy or nutrients but your brain needing a reward. Yet, cravings can be incredibly hard to control. The best way to overcome them may be to prevent them from occurring in the first place. One of the best prevention methods is to increase your protein intake.
A study in overweight adolescent girls found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced cravings & late-night snacking. This may be mediated by an improvement in the function of dopamine, one of the main brain hormones involved in cravings & addiction.
BOOSTS METABOLISM & INCREASES FAT BURNING
Eating can boost your metabolism for a short while because your body uses calories to digest & make use of the nutrients in foods. This is referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF). However, not all foods are the same in this regard. In fact, protein has a much higher thermic effect than fat or carbs — 20–35% compared to 5–15%.
High protein intake has been shown to significantly boost metabolism & increase the number of calories you burn. This can amount to 80–100 more calories burned each day. In fact, some research suggests you can burn even more. In one study, a high-protein group burned 260 more calories per day than a low-protein group. That’s equivalent to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
HELPS MAINTAIN WEIGHT LOSS
Because a high-protein diet boosts metabolism & leads to an automatic reduction in calorie intake & cravings, many people who increase their protein intake tend to lose weight almost instantly. One study found that overweight women who ate 30% of their calories from protein lost 5 kg in 12 weeks — though they didn’t intentionally restrict their diet.
Protein also has benefits for fat loss during intentional calorie restriction. In a 12-month study in 130 overweight people on a calorie-restricted diet, the high-protein group lost 53% more body fat than a normal-protein group eating the same number of calories.
Of course, losing weight is just the beginning. Maintaining weight loss is a much greater challenge for most people. A modest increase in protein intake has been shown to help with weight maintenance. In one study, increasing protein from 15% to 18% of calories reduced weight regain by 50%. If you want to keep off excess weight, consider making a permanent increase in your protein intake.
HELPS YOUR BODY REPAIR ITSELF AFTER INJURY
Protein can help your body repair after it has been injured. This makes perfect sense, as it forms the main building blocks of your tissues & organs. Numerous studies demonstrate that eating more protein after injury can help speed up recovery.
HELPS YOU STAY FIT AS YOU AGE
One of the consequences of aging is that your muscles gradually weaken. The most severe cases are referred to as age-related sarcopenia, which is one of the main causes of frailty, bone fractures & reduced quality of life among older adults. Eating more protein is one of the best ways to reduce age-related muscle deterioration & prevent sarcopenia.
Staying physically active is also crucial & lifting weights or doing some sort of resistance exercise can work wonders.
I f you need to lose weight, improve your metabolic health, or gain muscle mass & strength, make sure you’re eating enough protein - people can benefit from eating up to as much as 25–30% of calories from protein.