With an umpteenth number of diet talks, internet tips and books around us, we all know very well that a balanced diet is essential for a healthy body and mind. And when it comes to fat loss and healthy body weight, the protein tops the chart.
It is one of the three macronutrients along with carbohydrates and fat which means it is required in large amounts by the body.
Protein is an essential nutrient as it assists in various vital body functions varying from growth and maintenance to regulation as enzymes and hormones, providing structure, balancing fluids and even, strengthening the immunity.
Apart from this, protein-rich foods also help in weight loss involving many mechanisms and factors as discussed below.
How Protein Helps in Weight Loss
- Protein has a high thermic effect – By thermic effect of the food we mean the amount of energy your body needs for digestion, absorption and assimilation of the ingested food.
The macronutrients have a thermic effect of
- Carbohydrate- 5- 15% of total calories burned
- Protein- 20-35% of total calories burned
- Fat- 5-15% of total calories burned
So for example, if you had a meal having 200 calories coming from protein, then, somewhere between 20 and 70 calories will be utilized for processing of protein in the body.
With protein rich foods having the highest thermic effect, its proper intake ensures efficient energy expenditure and thus, and one progressive step towards weight loss.
- Protein boost up the metabolism– Though, like carbohydrates, protein possesses only 4 calories per gram, owing to its high thermic effect, protein pushes the body more for comparatively high energy expenditure.
This results in an elevated metabolic rate. Studies have shown that protein increases the metabolic rate and increases the daily calorie burn rate to up to 80 to 100 calories.
According to a study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, it was seen that the post-prandial thermogenesis increased by double with the high-protein diet as compared to a high-carbohydrate diet. Similarly, the increase in body temperature was more after a high-protein diet.
- Regulate the hormonal level– According to a review published in the Journal of Nutritional Health and Food Engineering, it was seen that protein intake affects the hormonal level which directly or indirectly affects the appetite. It is seen that a peptide hormone Cholecystokinin (CCK) is stimulated and secreted with ingestion and digestion of protein in the intestines. And this CCK causes inhibition of gastric emptying. Similarly, the ingestion of high-protein foods stimulates the secretion of neuropeptide hormones like GLP-1 (Glucagon-like-peptide-1) and peptide YY which induces high satiation.
- Maintains an ideal calorie balance– High protein foods are found to be really helpful in regulating and maintaining the calorie balance. This is due to two contributing mechanisms-
- Due to high satiety value- It suppresses the appetite and therefore, reduces the calorie intake
- Burn more calories- With high thermic effect value, high protein foods have a tendency to burn more calories while increasing the metabolic rate.
And as we all know, if the calorie is well balanced, it contributes to a healthy and sustainable weight loss.
- Protein helps in muscle formation– Protein is the building block of muscles and its constant supply throughout the day is necessary for muscle growth. Additionally, this mutual relation between protein and muscle formation is also advantageous in the process of weight loss.
According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the consumption of slower-acting protein foods can delay the absorption and increase time for utilization of the constituent amino acids.
Muscles are metabolically most active tissues with a pound of muscles burning around 30-50 calories per day. Therefore, intake of protein-rich foods helps in fat loss with muscle gain and thus, in an efficient weight-loss.
Protein Deficiency: Problem with Indian diet
The Indian diet is mainly dominated by ample sources of simple carbs. It is majorly a mountain of rice or chapatis with little side dishes of veggies and dals. Numerically, it is around 65% carb, 20% vegetables and only 15% protein.
It should be the other way around. The concept of the healthy eating plate by Harvard School of Public Health suggests how a healthy plate should look like! With a balanced proportion of whole grains, healthy protein, variety of vegetables and colourful fruits.
Protein-Rich Foods: To Include in Diet
We all agree now that protein is an essential part of the diet that not only aids the process of weight loss but also regulates some vital body reactions.
But the right kind and quantity of high protein foods also matter which contribute to the pace and quality of the body’s growth.
We can divide the protein sources on the basis of its origin-
- Plant-based sources– These sources are derived from plant and are considered to be incomplete owing to their incomplete amino acid content.
Few examples of plant-based, high protein foods are-
- Beans and legumes
- Green peas
- Green leafy vegetables
- Millets like quinoa and buckwheat
- Animal-based sources- These are derived from animal sources and are considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all 9 essential amino acids. Few examples of animal-based, high protein foods are
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Poultry like chicken and turkeys
- Dairy products like milk, cottage cheese and Greek yoghurt
Protein: Daily requirement
The RDA or Recommended Dietary Allowance is the amount of nutrient required on a daily basis to meet the basic body requirements.
For a healthy person, the protein requirement ranges between 0.8-1.0 grams per kg body weight.
However, this range may vary depending upon many factors like age, gender, physical activity as well as the physiological condition, the important point to remember is the frequency of intake. The protein should be equally distributed among all your meals throughout the day. This helps in avoiding the metabolic fluctuation as well as keep the calorie balance intact.
It is very clear that protein is an important nutrient with vital importance in our day to day life. Include it in your daily diet for best results and moreover, for fitter and healthier you. The most appropriate way to conclude here is the famous saying as it goes “Protein is the King”!