Just like you need carbohydrates and fat, you also need protein in order to live. When you think protein think building–you need it to build muscles (and skin and hair), build hormones and enzymes, and even build antibodies for a healthy immune system.
Protein is used in many bodily functions including cell maintenance and repair and blood clotting.
In addition to this, Protein is also one of the major nutrients to build a Leaner and Fitter you.
Here are some of the ways in which protein helps you achieve your fitness goals:
1. Protein Changes the Levels of Several Weight Regulating Hormones
Protein reduces levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, while it boosts the appetite-reducing hormones GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin. This leads to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
2. Digesting and Metabolizing Protein Burns Calories
After you eat, some calories are used for the purpose of digesting and metabolizing the food. This is often termed the thermic effect of food (TEF).
Although not all sources agree on the exact figures, it is clear that protein has a much higher thermic effect (20-30%) compared to carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%).
If we go with a thermic effect of 30% for protein, this means that 100 calories of protein only end up as 70 usable calories.
3. Protein Makes You Burn More Calories (Increases "Calories Out")
Due to the high thermic effect and several other factors, a high protein intake tends to boost metabolism.
It makes you burn more calories around the clock, including during sleep.
A high protein intake has been shown to boost metabolism and increase the number of calories burned by about 80 to 100 per day.
4. Protein Reduces Appetite and Makes You Eat Fewer Calories
Protein can reduce hunger and appetite via several different mechanisms. This can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake.
In other words, you end up eating fewer calories without having to count calories or consciously control portions.
5. Protein Cuts Cravings and Reduces Desire for Late-Night Snacking
Cravings are the dieter's worst enemy. They are one of the biggest reasons why people tend to fail on their diets. Another major problem is late-night snacking.
Eating more protein can lead to major reductions in cravings and the desire to snack late at night. These changes should make it much easier to stick to a healthy diet.
6. Protein Makes You Lose Weight, Even Without Conscious Calorie Restriction
Protein works on both sides of the "calories in vs calories out" equation. It reduces calories in and boosts calories out. For this reason, it is not surprising to see that high-protein diets lead to weight loss, even without intentionally restricting calories, portions, fat or carbs.
A higher protein intake is also associated with less belly fat, the harmful fat that builds up around the organs and causes disease.
But losing weight is not the most important factor. It is keeping it off in the long-term that really counts. Many people can go on "a diet" and lose weight, but most end up gaining the weight back. A modest increase in protein intake can also help prevent weight regain.
7. Protein Helps Prevent Muscle Loss and Metabolic Slowdown
Weight loss doesn't always equal fat loss. When you lose weight, muscle mass tends to be reduced as well. However, what you really want to lose is body fat, both subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and visceral fat (around organs).
Losing muscle is a side effect of weight loss that most people don't want. Another side effect of losing weight is that the metabolic rate tends to decrease.
Eating plenty of protein can help prevent muscle loss when you lose weight. It can also help keep your metabolic rate high, especially when combined with heavy strength training.
How Much Protein is Optimal?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is only 46 and 56 grams for the average woman and man, respectively.
This amount may be enough to prevent deficiency, but it is far from optimal if you are trying to lose weight (or gain muscle). In order to lose weight, aiming for 25-35% of calories as protein may be optimal. 30% of calories amounts to 150 grams of protein on a 2000 calorie diet.