If you’re into building a lean and trim muscular body, you’re probably well aware that you need to eat protein and plenty of it. The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4 to 2.0 g per kilogram of bodyweight per day, if you are an active fit female! Sure, it is also important to regularly follow a muscle-building weight training program, but if you’re not getting enough protein, you can say goodbye to all that hard work in they gym! Protein is the building block of muscle, and if you weren’t aware, it does more than just make sure your muscles are fed! Here are three reasons why you need more protein in your diet:
Reason #1 – Helps You Burn More Calories
It’s true, eating more protein helps you burn more calories. Protein has a thermic effect in the body, which means the body expends calories digesting it when you eat. In fact, protein has a greater thermic effect than eating other foods of the same caloric value like carbohydrates.
In one study completed on ten normal healthy weight women, the energy expenditure of three meals of equal calories, including a high protein meal, a high carbohydrate meal and a high fat meal, were compared. The energy expenditure of the high protein meal was 261 +/- 59, compared to lower values of 92 +/- 67 and 97 +/- 71 kilojoules, less than half the amount burned by the high protein diet.
Reason #2 – Reduces Appetite and Keeps Hunger in Control
Eating a high protein diet can help reduce hunger and appetite especially between meals. In a recent study, twenty healthy women were provided the following snacks – high protein yogurt, high fat crackers or high fat chocolate snack to compare the effects on appetite, satiety and subsequent food intakes.
Eating the yogurt snack led to greater reductions in afternoon hunger versus the chocolate and also delayed eating by approximately 30 min compared to the chocolate snack and approximately 20 min versus the high fat crackers. Even better, eating the high protein yogurt snack led to eating 100 fewer calories at subsequent meals versus the other snacks. No other differences were detected.
These data suggest that, when compared to high fat snacks, eating less energy dense, high protein snacks like yogurt improves appetite control and satiety and reduces subsequent food intake in healthy women. Try eating two smaller protein snacks between larger protein meals. Between lunch and dinner, have a protein snack like Greek yogurt, a protein shake or low fat cottage cheese.
Reason #3 – Maintain Muscle, Burn Fat
It’s often thought that you can lose your muscle mass gains that you have worked so hard for in the gym, if you’re trying to burn off fat. However, a recent study showed that eating a high protein diet while on an energy deficit (a calorie-reduced diet) helped maintain fat free mass.
In one randomized controlled trial, subjects were assigned to one of the following high protein diets – protein at 0.8 g/kg/d, 1.6 g/kg/d or 2.4 g/kg/d for 31 days. A 10-day weight maintenance period was followed by a 21-day reduced calorie diet of 40%. Subjects lost on average 3.2 kg of body weight during the energy deficit diet regardless of the amount of protein. However, the proportion of weight loss due to reductions in fat-free mass was lower and the loss of fat mass higher in those receiving 1.6 and 2.4 g/kg/d of protein. Additionally, those following the higher protein meals had a greater anabolic muscle response than those consuming the smallest amount of protein per day.
Campbell B, et al. ISSN position stand: protein and exercise. JISSN. 2007. 4:8.
Crovetti R, et al. The influence of thermic effect of food on satiety. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998. 52(7): 482-88.
Ortinau LC, et al. Effects of high-protein vs high-fat snacks on appetite control, satiety and eating initiation in healthy women. Nutrition J. 2014. 13:97.
Pasiakos SM, et al. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The FASEB Journal. 2013. 27(9): 3837-47.