You see protein here there and everywhere in the markets nowadays. It’s in your oatmeal, your granola…they even have protein water. So, is this just a fad? A marketing scheme? Or is there something to getting in your protein wherever you can? I’ll tell you from experience: every time I need to cut a good amount of body fat, I make sure to break out the tub of protein powder and rob the meat section of the grocery store blind. And guess what? It’s totally effective! But why protein? How often? Why does it work? And how can you make it work for you? Well I’m here to explain all of this and more.
DIT (diet-induced thermogenesis) is the defined as the increase in energy expenditure (i.e. calories your body burns) due to the calories ingested. Everyone experiences DIT as it is a normal part of the body’s basal metabolism. For example, our bodies burn calories just from our normal breathing, heart beating and muscle contraction from activities of daily living. Out of all of the factors of our basal metabolic rate (BMR), our DIT has the smallest effect. However, the composition of our diets has a huge effect on how many calories we burn through DIT. And since revving up our metabolism is a crucial part of healthy weight loss, being familiar with how to manipulate our metabolisms by using DIT to our advantage is a powerful tool. Here’s how it works:
Studies show that protein increases your BMR the most when compared to fat and carbohydrates. Protein raises your metabolism by 20-25% during digestion, compared to carbohydrate which causes a 10-15% raise and fat only 2%. This means that your body burns the most calories when digesting high-protein meals. Not only that, the DIT produced by protein digestion also induces the most satiety when compared to fat and carbohydrates. More satiety means more feelings of being full and satisfied, which also means you eat less in the long run. Lastly, high-protein diets when in a calorie deficit (which is also an essential step to weight loss) ensures that you lose less muscle and the more muscle one has, the higher their BMR as well.
So how much protein? Research shows that, for weight loss, the rule of thumb is you should consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, that means you would need to eat 128 grams of protein a day.
How often? Using the example above, if your daily protein goal is 128 grams, then you would want to divide the protein throughout your main meals. Your body uses protein best at about 30 grams per meal. So, 20-30 grams at breakfast, 30-40 grams at lunch and dinner. Any protein left over, you would eat as snacks. Studies show that skewing these numbers (i.e. eating 10 grams at breakfast, 15 grams at lunch and then the rest of the 103 grams during dinner) does not have the same effect.