Protein and Weight Loss

In her most recent NY Times post, A Diet and Exercise Plan to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle, Gretchen Reynolds explains that when someone diets, and drops one pound, that pound is mostly fat.  Some of that pound though - about 1/3rd - can be muscle.

Yikes! We don't want to lose muscle!

Muscle is more metabolically active than fat - meaning muscle tissue burns more calories ounce for ounce than fat tissue. Losing muscle leaves us with a slower basal metabolic rate, which is one reason it becomes harder and harder to lose weight when dieting.

The article goes on to report that weight loss studies show diets high in protein can lessen the amount of muscle lost when restricting calories. Ms Reynolds also highlighted another great point: Participants in the weight loss study who lost less muscle also exercised. The combination of aerobic exercise and strength training exercise has been shown to help maintain muscle mass while cutting calories to lose weight.

The US Dietary Guidelines for protein ranges from 10-35% of total calories - the higher you go up in this percentage, the lower you'll go in healthy fats and carbs. So, of course, balance is key. If you are restricting calories to lose weight, lean towards the higher end of the range, 20-35%. Of course this advice is not be applicable for someone with kidney problems.

And where can you get that protein?

The following foods have about 7 grams of protein per ounce:

  • Meat, Fish, and Poultry. Choose lean meats, poultry no skin, and strive to eat fish at least twice per week - especially fatty fish high in omega-3, like Wild Salmon, Arctic Char, and Mackerel.
  • The Incredible Edible Egg
  • Beans and Legumes: 1/2 cup of beans, 2 Tbsp Peanut Butter.
  • One half cup of Firm Tofu can provide 10 grams of protein.

One cup of low fat dairy will provide 8 grams of protein, while one 5.3 ounce serving of Greek yogurt can provide 12-14 grams of protein - depending on the brand.

And as all my vegan clients who are losing weight know, nuts and seeds, and super grains can also be a great source of protein.

You can add about 5-7 grams of protein with nuts and seeds:

  • 1/4 cup of Almonds, Pistachios, or Cashews
  • 1/2 cup of Pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 oz Hemp seeds

You can also add about another 8-11 grams of protein with one cup of super grains, such as Amaranth, Buckwheat/Kasha, Kamut, Spelt, Teff, or Quinoa.

So if one of your 2016 New Year resolutions was to lose weight, stick to the magic combination: Diet and Exercise.

Keep that metabolism revving by maintaining muscle mass and eating foods high in protein! To maximize feelings of satiety and eliminate boredom don't forget to vary your protein sources, fill half your plate with high fiber vegetables, and eat fruit with breakfast or as a healthy snack or dessert.

To learn more about how to rev your metabolism, lose weight, and sustain a lifestyle of healthy eating, contact me at 973.852.3335

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1 Response

  1. This is a good article because the emphasis is on balance, ensuring that we have enough protein in our diets. The problem out there is that some people, particularly gym rats and weight trainers, think that they can gain more muscle and lose weight if they cut the carbs drastically and up the protein to 40-5o % of their caloric intakes. But only does this not work but the stress on the kidneys with this type of load is damaging. Let's emphasize that too much of anything is not a good thing and that balance, in nutrition, is most important.

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