In January everyone wants to be fit and lose weight so I decided to dive into what you need to know about protein amounts for weight loss and protein timing.
“How much protein should I eat, and how should I divide that throughout the day?” This is one big question I always get. Out of the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – protein is the key for weight loss, and protein timing makes a big difference. Now there are three reasons for that:
- Protein takes longer to digest than the other macronutrients.
- As you lose weight you will most likely lose muscle.
- Protein helps control your hunger hormone ghrelin.
Protein Digestion and How it Impacts Weight Loss
The body takes a while to digest the matrix of the protein, so the protein sits in your stomach for a longer time. This is one way that it helps to control your hunger. By spreading out meals and snacks throughout the day, you’re helping to control satiety and cravings from not eating for too long.
Weight Loss and Losing Muscle
As you lose weight you most likely will lose muscle as well and therefore, we must prevent that from happening because muscle drives your metabolism
If you lose weight and you’re losing muscle, by the end you’re going to have a low metabolism. That’s another reason you want to add protein to your meals.
Hunger Hormone Ghrelin
What is Ghrelin?
Ghrelin is a hormone in your gut refered to as the “hunger hormone” because it’s role is to increase your hunger.
Ghrelin Hormone Function
Ghrelin fights you and wants you to stay at homeostasis. It doesn’t want you to lose the weight and the hormone actually increases as you lose weight. Everyone who is losing weight is hungrier because they’re cutting calories and likely not eating enough protein. So, by adding protein, you can help control the hunger hormone ghrelin and keep your hunger hormone in check.
How Much Protein to Eat Per Meal
The main target of protein per meal is 30-40g (lower end for females, higher end for males). If you eat more than that, your body cannot utilize it. You won’t metabolize it the same so, it’s wasted. To maximize your weight loss, metabolism, and protein, target 30-40g.
For snacks, I typically recommend aiming for 10-20g.
The goal is to eat every 3-4 hours. Ghrelin comes back by the fourth hour, so if you don’t eat frequently, ghrelin can make someone eat 40% more without even knowing it.
Sample Protein Timing for 1500 Calories Per Day
Here are sample meals and how to divide protein throughout the day for proper protein timing.
|Meal||Food||Amount of Protein|
|Breakfast (6am)||Egg Muffins with Spinach (2 for female; 3 for male)|
1 cup of blueberries
1 glass of milk
|30-40g from the eggs and milk|
|Snack (9am)||Greek yogurt parfait with mango and pecans||~10-20g from the Greek yogurt and pecans|
|Lunch (12pm)||Panini with turkey, cheese|
Small green smoothie
|30-40g from all items|
|Snack (4pm)||Option 1: Two hardboiled eggs, apple |
Option 2: Smoothie with Greek yogurt, milk, protein powder and frozen strawberries
| ~10-20g from eggs|
~20 from yogurt, milk, protein powder
|Dinner (7pm)||Option 1: High protein pasta with meat sauce and cheese on top. |
Option 2 (vegan/vegetarian): Soup with lima beans and rice protein powder
|Dessert||15-30g of 70% dark chocolate (~1-2 squares) and several pieces of dried fruit (apricots, figs, prunes)||<5g|
How to Plan for Proper Protein Timing
Whether or not you should eat a morning snack depends on when you eat breakfast. If you have breakfast at 8 and have lunch at 12, you may not need the morning snack.
But if you’re like me and get up at 5am to go exercise or you’re waking up at 6 and eating breakfast at 7, you’re most likely going to need a snack.
Key Snack Times to Monitor Hunger
Having a snack at 4pm is the most critical snack of the day. Most people skip this snack, and when they skip it, they get home and end up eating two dinners. They’re so hungry that their ghrelin is quite high, and now they’re eating the cheese, bread, and chips, plus dinner.
I recommend having this snack at 4-5pm depending on your schedule and adding protein again.
How to Build a Healthy High Protein Dinner Plate
Half of your plate should be vegetables and colorful. Each different color of fruits and vegetables provide different phytonutrients and antioxidants. They also provide fiber.
Remember, you don’t have to eat bland and diet food to lose weight.
Meeting Protein Needs as Vegan or Vegetarian
For vegetarian and vegan friends – dinner option 2 with the soup is a great example of how to meet your 30-40g target. The lima beans have fiber and protein. This may not be enough to get to the 30-40g. So, I recommend buying rice protein powder without flavor. Then you can add it into your soup. Since it doesn’t have any flavor, and its rice protein, it doesn’t change the flavor of the food. You’re just going to mix it well and then you can add your beans, and heat it up. You’re supplementing it with the rice powder so you can meet the 30-40g of protein.
Choosing a Healthy Dessert Option
Cacao from dark chocolate helps with cravings. So, by eating a little bit, 15-30g, you will cut down cravings and get satisfied in the evening. Pairing it with dried fruit makes it taste delicious while also providing extra nutrients.
Key Takeaways for Protein Timing and Amounts for Meals
- Eat every 3-4 hours to control hunger hormone ghrelin.
- Aim for 30-40g of protein per meal, and 10-15 grams per snack to separate your protein out throughout the day.
- Meal timing isn’t the same for everyone – pay attention to when you start your day, and adjust your meals and snacks from there.
More Protein Articles
If you’re interested in other protein-related articles, keep reading: