In today’s world, we hear this all the time … increasing your protein intake can help you lose fat. While this is true in some degrees, it may not be in the way you might think.
So, does protein burn fat? Let’s dig into the science.
Eating a specific nutrient can’t directly cause your body to just lose fat. You lose weight and burn fat when you eat fewer calories than you need for energy, causing your body to use stored fat, carbohydrate, and muscle tissue to fuel your activities.
So does the consumption of protein-rich foods directly result in burning body fat?
Meaning, does consuming different sources of protein alone create some magic state of thermogenesis and rapid fat burning capabilities?
NO … but there are studies that show higher protein diets can result in greater fat loss when in a calorie deficit (and remember, weight loss isn’t always fat loss).
Most of us default to the term “weight loss” to describe new year's resolutions, toning up, or leaning down, but what the majority of us really want is “fat loss".
So, we want to make sure we prevent as much muscle loss as possible while in a calorie deficit. By keeping more muscle mass you can maintain a higher metabolic rate, which will lead to greater fat loss in the long run, as well as help you maintain the results.
Muscle is the most metabolic tissue in the body, and protein feeds the muscle. Meaning that when you consume a serving of protein, roughly 20-25 grams of protein or more in a single sitting, you supply your body amino acids to help preserve lean muscle tissue.
It does this by switching the body into an anabolic state, where it is primarily burning carbs and fats for fuel.
Since your body is not burning very many amino acids for fuel, and you gave it amino acids through eating protein-rich foods, it does not need to break down your muscle tissue to find the amino acids it needs to carry out normal operating functions. Hence, you maintain your muscle tissue.
The only other state your body can be in is a catabolic state. This state is undesirable for fat loss as in this state, your body is using more amino acids as fuel and less of carbs and fats.
This leads to hard-earned muscle tissue being broken down into amino acids and used for fuel, and excessive carbs and fats get stored as fat for later use.
Having a serving of protein, roughly 25-30 grams of protein or more in a single sitting, is what switches your body from the catabolic into the anabolic state.
Which as you can see is much better for fat loss, because from a simplistic standpoint ... it’s where your body is preserving lean muscle tissue and primarily burning fats and carbs for fuel.
BUT … for fat loss to occur, you can’t forget about the number one rule … you have to be in a calorie deficit.
Meaning you have to be burning more calories than you consume for your body to use stored energy (body fat).
A good way to do that is by replacing some of your carb and fat calories with protein calories. This will allow you to feel fuller and be less hungry while being in the deficit.
It’s been shown that a high protein diet actually increases levels of hormones that make you feel full (GLP-1, peptide YYand cholecystokinin) while reducing your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
This makes it easier to eat less because you simply won’t have as many cravings or desires for high-carb and high-fat foods that are not on your nutrition plan.
Well, the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb).
So, a guy who weighs 180 pounds would need around 65g of protein per day. It’s important to note though that the RDA protein guidelines were originally created to represent the minimum amount that we need to avoid malnutrition.
In actuality, we can consume more protein than that, and for people who want to lose fat and build muscle, eating a higher protein diet is very beneficial.
Actually, one of the biggest downfalls to most people's fat loss efforts is under-eating the macronutrient, protein.
Many studies have been done on people consuming 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass and the favorable influences it has on fat loss results.
If you don’t know what your lean body mass is, no problem ... you could just start with eating somewhere around 1g of protein per pound of goal weight.
That will get you headed in the right direction!
An additional benefit of consuming protein is that it can increase your metabolism and your calories burned for the day. This will lead to further fat loss when done correctly.
This happens because of the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).
TEF refers to how many calories you burn while digesting your food. Each macronutrient (Protein, Carbohydrate, Fat) is different:
As you can see, protein takes a lot more energy to process than both carbs and fats. This is a good thing, especially if your goal is fat loss.
However, do not try to calculate this into your daily numbers on the My TransPHORMation App or your food/calorie tracking app of choice.
The TEF benefits of protein with the combination of some of the other benefits of eating protein can synergistically work together to help you consume fewer calories while burning more calories from the food you’re eating...
Setting you up for better fat loss results by decreasing your caloric intake and increasing your caloric burn for the day.
So, as you can see, there are multiple benefits from consuming a higher protein diet if your goal is "weight loss" … leaning out … fat loss … getting toned … or however you describe the state of having less body fat, but maintaining a healthy and fit look.
All of these can help you reach your goals more quickly!
If you are interested in fat loss (not just weight loss) and conserving as much muscle while in a deficit … and not starving while dieting … then I would make finding sources of protein a priority in your nutrition plan!
If you need help figuring out how to work different protein sources into your diet, please feel free to contact us here at 1st Phorm Headquarters, where one of our NASM Certified Personal Trainers and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialists can help you out … for FREE!
You can contact us HERE or give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 Monday thru Friday, 6 am to 10 pm CST.
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