A side effect of limiting calories to lose body fat is muscle loss. But eating plenty of protein can preserve muscle, support your metabolism, as you lose fat. Learn what a high protein diet is, how it helps with fat loss, and benefits of some high protein foods.
Protein is a macronutrient, alongside carbohydrates and fats, which provide our bodies with energy. Protein is made from at least 20 amino acids, or building blocks. Since our body doesn’t store amino acids, nor does it make nine of the essential ones, we must get them from the foods we eat (1). These amino acids play a role in building muscle and regulating metabolism, making them important for fat loss goals. The National Academy of Medicine recommends 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, with an acceptable percentage of 10 percent to 30 percent of total calories (2).
A high-protein diet can vary according to the diet and individual preference but it’s higher than the average recommendation. Although it depends on personal goals and medical history, the general recommended intake for a higher protein diet is up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram (or 1 g per lb) body weight. For safety reasons, it’s always good to check in with your doctor before making a dietary change.
A high-protein diet can be effective for fat loss because it promotes satisfaction, preserves lean muscle mass, and boosts metabolism. When combined with a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than burned, it can support fat loss. A large review study even suggested that high-protein diets were more effective when compared to average protein diets when it came to maintaining muscle mass and metabolic rate while losing weight (3).
Protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) compared to carbohydrates and fats. This means that the body expends more energy to digest, absorb, and metabolize protein. This increased thermogenesis can contribute to a higher overall energy expenditure, aiding in fat loss (4).
Consuming protein before and/or after exercise aids in the recovery and repair of muscles, supporting your overall exercise program. Learn more about what to eat before or after your workout: Fit fuel: what to eat before and after a workout.
Increasing the amount of protein in your diet can help support your fat loss journey. Filling up on these minimally processed, protein-rich foods will keep you feeling full.
Beans are high in plant-based protein while being a low glycemic source of complex carbs (5). These carbs are important for weight loss since they take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates, satisfying hunger for longer.
The World Health Organization reports eggs as the most digestible protein source, meaning they’re an excellent way to get protein (6). Eggs, especially when they are paired with fiber, have been suggested to reduce food intake during later meals of the day (6).
Greek yogurt is a great food for promoting fat loss since it’s high in protein while being low in fat and sugar – just aim for the unsweetened versions. It also contains probiotics, or living microorganisms of good bacteria, which may increase metabolism.
Chicken breast is low in fat while being high in high quality protein. Regular consumption can reduce appetite while maintaining muscle mass, meaning a better chance for losing fat. For the healthiest way to cook it, consider baking it in the oven or stir frying it.
Fish is rich in amino acids, protein building blocks, and B vitamins which support energy and metabolism. Some kinds of fish are also a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids which reduce chronic disease and inflammation.
Remember that while protein is important, don't neglect carbohydrates and healthy fats. A well-balanced diet provides essential nutrients and helps maintain overall health. Even healthy, high-protein foods can contribute to weight gain in excess. So focus on balanced, natural foods that make you feel energized and good. Not sure how much you should be eating? Check out Lifesum!
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