protein for fat loss

Kate DeWinter

When we hear the word protein, a stereotypical image of a male bodybuilder springs to mind. So how important is it for us regular folks to consume protein in order to lose fat?

When it comes to the war on fat, protein is your weapon of mass destruction:

1. Protein boosts energy expenditure

In comparison to dietary fat and carbohydrate, protein takes more energy to digest, absorb and store. Switching from a regular protein diet (e.g. I5% of daily energy) to a higher protein diet (e.g. 30% of daily energy) can increase total daily energy expenditure, the equivalent of up to 2.5kg of body fat over a year.

2. Protein maintains lean muscle mass

Protein supports the development of lean muscle mass which is responsible for metabolism – muscle is the only thing in the body that burns calories. More lean muscle means more fat burnt, protection against fat's unwelcome return down the line, better fitness performance, and a healthy, sexy body shape.

3. Protein is critical when on calorie-restricted diets

Rapid initial weight loss can boost motivation, however quick results on the outside almost always mean not-so-positive changes on the inside where lean muscle mass is concerned. This fat-burning lean body mass can account for up to a third of weight lost during 'crash diets'. 

Most 'dieters' fall well short of the daily levels of protein needed to prevent muscle wastage and a damaged metabolism, which is why so many develop that unhealthy and unattractive 'skinny fat' body type, and are unsuccessful at keeping the weight off.

The challenge on a weight-loss nutrition plan is there are few calories to play with. Simply adding protein rich foods to the plan is likely to compromise the plan's effectiveness as you would be increasing the calories consumed. The key is to, rather than supplement with protein, instead substitute elements of your diet with high protein alternatives. Ask a nutrition expert which ones are recommended in terms of being healthy, high protein, and low calorie. 

4. Protein helps curb appetite

It makes you feel fuller for longer, lowering your energy consumption. Reducing insulin response after a meal, protein helps keep blood sugar (glucose) levels stable which is essential for heath, fat loss and managing those later cravings.

5. Protein is crucial for muscle repair after exercise

The intense workouts required for efficient fat-loss also mean your body takes a bit of a beating (in a good way!). Protein protects and repairs. Without sufficient levels in your diet, your body being the resourceful machine it is, will find this required protein elsewhere... by breaking down existing muscle. Bad news for your body shape and your long term fat-loss plan.