Losing weight can be incredibly difficult. Even if you have some success at first, it can be hard to sustain weight loss – particularly if you have drastically cut calories or are working out daily.
One option that can help you lose weight is something that you may not have considered: increasing the amount of protein that you eat. A high protein diet has been shown to help reduce hunger and burn more calories – which can help you lose weight without doing anything else. In this way, adding protein-dense foods to your diet can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
At Ideal You, we know that weight loss is complicated. That is why we offer a structured food list, all natural, food-based supplements, and sessions with a weight loss coach. Ready to get started? Give us a call to schedule a free weight loss consultation with a member of our team.
How Does Protein Help with Weight Loss?
In decades past, low fat and low calorie diets were often recommended for anyone who wanted to lose weight. More recently, however, the advice shifted. Recognizing that these diets were often unsustainable, nutrition experts began recommending diets that were higher in protein – and dropped the focus on calories and fat.
A high protein diet has been shown to help people lose weight and belly fat while increasing both muscle mass and strength. There are several reasons why protein is considered the most important nutrient for weight loss.
First, protein can help to change the levels of some of the hormones that regulate your weight. It has been shown to increase the levels of the appetite reducing hormones GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin while simultaneously reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin. These hormones send signals to your brain for it to determine when and how much to eat. When you replace the carbohydrates and unhealthy fats in your diet with protein, you will experience less hunger – and typically lose weight as a result.
Second, your body must burn calories in order to digest and metabolize protein. This is known as the thermic effect of food. Compared to the thermic effect of carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%), protein has a much higher thermic effect of 20 to 30%. The end result is that when you focus on protein-rich foods, your body will burn more calories automatically.
Third, in addition to a higher thermic effect and other factors, eating plenty of protein will actually help to boost your metabolism. Studies show that a high protein diet can increase the amount of calories that you burn by as many as 80 to 100 every single day. That number increases to as many as 260 extra calories burned if you overeat. This means that you can lose weight without any extra effort simply by switching to a high protein diet.
Fourth, protein helps to prevent muscle loss and helps to build muscle. This is incredibly important when trying to lose weight, as losing muscle mass actually slows down your metabolism. Eating plenty of protein can prevent this from happening, which can help you to avoid weight loss plateaus.
Fifth, protein helps to reduce appetite and cut cravings, which can lead to weight loss without any conscious restriction of calories. As noted above, protein affects the hormones in your body that influence hunger. Eating lots of protein can reduce your appetite as a result. In fact, one study found that eating a diet where 30% of all calories came from protein caused people to consume 441 fewer calories each day. Because protein helps you consume fewer calories AND expend more calories, it isn’t surprising that increasing the protein in your diet can result in weight loss – often without taking any other steps.
High Protein Foods to Add to Your Diet
Now that you know how a high protein diet can help you lose weight, the next step is finding ways to increase the amount of protein that you consume. Keep in mind that the recommended daily intake for protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. Consult with your doctor about what an ideal level of protein is for your diet and weight loss goals.
Below, we list 20 of the best high protein foods for your diet – including both plant and animal sources.
Eggs are incredibly nutritious. In addition to protein, eggs are a great source of healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Egg whites are almost pure protein, while whole eggs have both protein and fat from the yolk. One large egg contains 6 grams of protein and 78 calories.
Chicken is a quintessential diet food, and for good reason. Chicken breast is high in protein, low in fat, and is easy to cook. Without the skin, one roasted chicken breast contains 53 grams of protein and 284 calories.
If you enjoy cottage cheese, you’re in luck: it is low in fat and calories, and high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and selenium. One cup of low fat cottage cheese has 28 grams of protein and 163 calories.
Lentils are one of the best sources of plant-based protein. High in fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese and other nutrients, these legumes are incredibly versatile. One cup of boiled lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 230 calories.
Beef is high in protein, iron, vitamin B12 and other critical nutrients. The key here is to choose lean cuts of beef. For example, a 3 ounce serving of lean sirloin steak has 25 grams of protein and 186 calories.
If you are trying to increase protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, consider fish. Fish is rich in essential nutrients, and is often protein-dense. For example, a 3 ounce serving of salmon contains 19 grams of protein and 175 calories.
Many nutritionists recommend having a handful of almonds as a quick snack. As long as you aren’t allergic to nuts, adding almonds (or another high protein nut like pistachios or cashews) is a great way to boost your protein intake. One ounce of almonds contains 6 grams of protein and 164 calories.
Oats are one of the healthiest grains that you can eat. Full of fiber, magnesium, thiamine, manganese and other nutrients, one cup of cooked oats has 11 grams of protein and 307 calories.
Recently, greek yogurt has become popular as a substitute for sour cream and on its own as a breakfast dish. Thicker than regular yogurts, it is high in many nutrients. One 6 ounce serving has 17 grams of protein and just 100 calories.
Shrimp is a great low calorie, nutrient-dense seafood. A 3 ounce serving has 20 grams of protein and just 84 calories. Shrimp also is high in omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and vitamin B12.
Tuna is an inexpensive and healthy source of protein. It is a good source of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. One can of tuna packed din water has 27 grams of protein and just 128 calories.
You might not expect to see a vegetable on a list of protein-rich foods. Yet compared to other vegetables, broccoli is high in protein – and other nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and potassium. One cup of broccoli has 3 grams of protein and just 31 calories.
If you enjoy snacking on nuts, consider adding pumpkin seeds to your diet. Once roasted, pumpkin seeds are a delicious way to get your protein, iron, magnesium, and zinc. One ounce of pumpkin seeds has 9 grams of protein and 158 calories.
Milk is one of the best sources of high quality protein and other nutrients, like calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B2. As long as you can tolerate milk, you should consider adding it to your diet. One cup of whole milk has 8 grams of protein and 149 calories.
One of the hardest things for many people to give up on a low carb diet is bread. If you are craving a sandwich and only bread will do, you may want to try sprouted (Ezekiel) bread. Made from sprouted whole grains and legumes like millet, spelt, soybeans, and lentils, Ezekiel bread is high in protein, fiber, and nutrients. Once slice has 4 grams of protein and 80 calories.
Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving! Like chicken, this poultry is an excellent source of protein with very little fat and calories. One 3 ounce serving has 26 grams of protein and 125 calories.
Quinoa has been touted as a superfood, and for good reason. This seed is rich in vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein and 222 calories.
As long as you are not allergic to peanuts, they’re a great choice for adding protein to your diet. These legumes are high in protein, fiber and magnesium. Try to stick to the nut itself, rather than peanut butter – which tends to have added sugars and can be high in unhealthy fats. One ounce of peanuts contains 7 grams of protein and 161 calories.
Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are high in protein as well as fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients. Each half cup of sprouts contains 2 grams of protein and 28 calories. Try them roasted for an extra tasty way to up your protein!
Whey Protein Supplements
It can be hard to get enough protein in each day, especially if you are pressed for time and can’t cook. In these situations, a whey protein supplement can be a great way to add protein. Whey protein is made from dairy. It can help you build muscle mass and lose weight. Depending on the brand, a whey protein supplement may have as many as 20 to 50 grams of protein per serving.
Achieve Your Goal Weight with Ideal You
If you have struggled to lose weight, you may think that you are just destined to be fat. This doesn’t have to be true – Ideal You can help you drop unwanted pounds quickly and sustainably.
Our program focuses on real food (including high protein foods) instead of expensive weight loss shakes and frozen meals. With Ideal You, you will work with a team of weight loss coaches, shop in the grocery store using a structured food list, take all natural supplements, and track your progress with a weight loss journal. You don’t have to do this alone – we are here to help.
If you’re ready to get started on your weight loss journey, give us a call at 888-488-7258 or schedule a free consultation at our East Grand Rapids, South Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Livonia, or Sterling Heights locations.