A high protein diet plan is all you need to boost your health and shed excess pounds off your weight. It has been proven that many of todayâ€™s weight problems are inherently tied to a low protein diet compounded by the tendency of many to eat carbohydrate-rich foods and unhealthy fats. We are not saying that you need to skip the carbs and the fats altogether. What weâ€™re saying is to reflect on what we have been eating so far and change these eating patterns into something more beneficial.
In the past, it was believed that carbohydrates were the main culprit for many weight issues. This stems from its association with the development of diabetes. And whenever someone talks about this metabolic abnormality, the type of person they have in mind is someone who is obese. When someone was obese, people would automatically think of diabetes. And since diabetes is a dysfunction of carbohydrate or glucose metabolism, then eating too many carbohydrates is to blame. The solution therefore, is to reduce carbohydrate intake with some going to the extremes of totally eliminating it from their diet.
However, studies show that, while carbohydrates are the primary source of glucose, there are other factors that can affect insulin metabolism. As we already know, insulin is a very important hormone which is responsible for moving molecules of glucose from the blood into the cells to serve as their fuel. Nonetheless, it is critical to understand that glucose is not the only fuel source of cells. It is for this reason that there has been a shift in the emphasis of effective dieting: reduction of calories.
Reducing Calories: Key to Effective Weight Loss?
In recent years there has been a shift in the focus of effective weight loss management. The major focus now is in the reduction of calories. It is believed that by reducing calorie intake, the body will be forced to use up existing or currently stored energy molecules as a form of energy to supply the bodyâ€™s need for fuel. It makes sense, actually. If you consume less energy than the amount of energy that you put in, then your body will have to look elsewhere to supply the energy deficiency.
Letâ€™s try to understand this a bit more.
All cells require energy to function. Energy is supplied by the food that we eat. It should be clear that all foods contain energy. A gram of carb typically contains 4 calories. The same amount can be obtained from a gram of protein. A gram of fat, on the other hand, contains the most amount of energy at 9 calories. Letâ€™s try to put this in simple words. If you eat food that contains 1 gram each of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins, you are essentially supplying your body with 17 calories.
But, thereâ€™s another side to it. These energy molecules from food have to be digested, absorbed, and then metabolized by the body so that it can be used as energy. These processes of digestion, absorption, and metabolism also require energy. Technically, you are producing energy while at the same time using energy to process these molecules. And this is where the major difference lies.
Carbohydrates are easily processed and often require minimal energy. Fats are a bit trickier to digest as they require secretions or fluids from the liver and gallbladder for these molecules to be processed. Proteins, on the other hand, require substantially more complex processes, hence, more energy, before they can be used as energy sources.
And this is where the beauty of proteins lies when it comes to dieting and weight loss.
We already said that a gram of protein contains 4 calories. It has the same amount calories per weight with carbs. However, this is just half the story. The real power of protein lies in its very complex molecular structure. Proteins are very large molecules that require tremendous amounts of energy just to convert these into smaller molecules. Each resulting molecule is then broken up into other component parts before these can be utilized by the cell for a host of processes particularly in the transmission of genetic information from one cell to another cell. Because of this primary function of proteins, tissues grow and develop and they attain a level of functionality that allows us to live normally. And one of the most important tissues that proteins build is muscle.
Muscle is one of the greatest sources of protein. Thatâ€™s why if you look at any food guide, excellent protein sources are meats. While protein can also be found in certain types of plants, these are often devoid of certain amino acids so we donâ€™t get all the correct proteins.
Now, letâ€™s try to see what we know so far.
- Protein is a very large molecule that requires substantial amounts of energy to be converted into its basic components.
- It takes a lot of time, hence more energy, to digest and metabolize protein.
- It takes a longer time for protein to be emptied from the stomach.
The cumulative effect of these is a more effective means of losing weight or, at least, the maintenance of the correct body weight.
Just imagine. For every gram of protein you consume, youâ€™re guaranteed to gain 4 calories. However, the process of digesting and metabolizing this same gram of protein may require substantially more energy than merely 4 calories. Letâ€™s just say, it is 5 calories, hypothetically. So, if you consume 30 grams of protein, which is equivalent to 120 calories, you will be spending 150 calories just to break this down. You are deficient by 30 calories. The question now is where will the body get this additional 30 calories? Obviously, thereâ€™s only one very efficient energy storage molecule in the body, and that is fat. The end result is that our body will have to utilize the stored fat to supply the much-needed calories to supply the metabolism of proteins.
Regrettably, the process is not that simple. As we have already said, all foods contain calories. Carbs and fats also contain calories. If both carbs and fats are high in calories, then the energy needed to metabolize protein will have to come from these sources. Thatâ€™s why, if we really want to lose weight, we need to jack up our protein and limit our carbohydrate intake. As for fat, the more important consideration is the type of fat we put in our bodies. Just as proteins are important for cellular development, fats are needed for cellular integrity. The point is to choose the correct type of fat.
Thereâ€™s one more thing we need to point out. Since proteins are large molecules and take a tremendous amount of energy to process these, it also take a significantly longer period of time to digest it. This simply means that it takes a longer time for protein to leave the stomach. So, while it is still essentially in your digestive tract, the receptors in your gastrointestinal system are sending signals to the brain telling it that it is still full. This is the reason why eating a protein rich diet helps you in losing weight simply because it makes you feel fuller, feeling less hungry every time. And even if you do tend to eat, the effects of protein metabolism are still fresh in your hunger center that you will only be eating less.
So, to recap,
- You use up more energy digesting and metabolizing protein than the actual energy it gives the body.
- You stay feeling fuller and less hungry because of the unusual length of time to complete the digestion of proteins in the gastrointestinal tract.
What Studies Say
You donâ€™t need to take our word for it. There are a variety of research studies showing that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates can help reduce the incidence of osteoporosis, elevated blood cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. One particular study from the Johns Hopkins University cited a diet rich in protein, typically comprising a quarter of the daily caloric intake coming from lean protein, can significantly reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels.
Individuals who increase their protein intake by as much as 30 percent were shown to consume as much as 450 fewer calories per day which result in an 11 pound reduction in their weight over a period of 12 weeks. Other studies point to the same thing. Over time, eating a protein-rich, low carbohydrate diet can produce the kind of effects that almost everyone wants: weight loss.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University say that low carb diets can lead to significant reductions in insulin levels. A low insulin level will favor the utilization of glucagon in the event of a spike in cellular energy requirement. However, a more efficient mechanism of supplying this sudden need for energy is the mobilization of stored fat. Unlike glucagon that first needs to be converted back into glucose to serve as energy source, fats can be readily oxidized and used as energy. Combining this with a diet thatâ€™s rich in protein will only increase the energy requirements further facilitating the removal of fat molecules from their storage sites. Technically, a protein rich diet supports the effects of a low carbohydrate diet.
Optimizing the Benefits of a Power Protein Diet Plan
To make sure that you get the full weight loss benefits of a high protein diet plan, you will need to remember the following.
- Get a high protein breakfast.Â
Your body may be sleeping during the night but this doesnâ€™t mean the vital physiologic processes like blood circulation, breathing, and urine production also stop. These are vital processes that they work round the clock to maintain life. As such, your body may be devoid of the much needed energy by the time you wake up early in the morning. Rather than getting a toast for breakfast, indulge in a high protein diet of eggs and cottage cheese, or any other protein rich foods to resupply the protein stores in your muscles. If not, your body will draw its energy requirement from muscle tissues. Additionally, we have already discussed the effects of a protein rich diet on satiety. Studies show that people who eat protein rich breakfasts tend to eat fewer calories during the rest of the day. So, always start your day with at least 30 grams of protein during breakfast.
- Include 0.5 to 1.0 grams of protein for every pound of body weight.Â
Experts recommend increasing your daily protein intake, depending on your activity levels, by as low as 0.5 grams to as high as 1.0 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. If you lead a very active lifestyle â€“ plenty of exercise or physical weight loss activities â€“ then taking the upper limit of this recommendation is advisable. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, then you need 150 grams of protein per day, at the minimum. If youâ€™re not active, then half that should be your lower limit, say 75 grams. The reason for this is that youâ€™ll need more protein to supply the muscle tissue building processes required for increased physical activities.
- Choose meat-based proteins.Â
Meats are not the only sources of proteins. Vegetables, nuts, and whole grains typically contain protein, too. However, they do not contain all of the nine amino acids that our bodies require in building a super lean muscle. As such, your best bet will be lean beef, low fat dairy products, turkey, pork tenderloin, and skinless white chicken. If youâ€™re a vegetarian, tofu, quinoa, buckwheat, and hemp seeds provide complete protein. Or, you can partner incomplete proteins together such as beans and brown rice or even whole wheat bread with peanut butter.
- Consider protein-to-go foods.Â
One of the downsides to proteins is that they often have to be prepared in advance. Compared to fruits and other carbs that you can easily buy and slip in your back for that instant snack, most proteins need to be cooked. Fortunately, there are now many ways you can snack on proteins. String cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and energy bars are excellent choices and so are jerky, protein powders, and roasted soy nuts.
The key to effective dieting is increasing your protein intake. Couple this with a reduction in carbohydrates and the choice of healthier fats and you should be on your way to a healthier and slimmer you.