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4 reasons to eat a high-protein diet

I recommend a high protein diet for several reasons:

1: Protein is muscle-sparing. I.E. it helps to prevent loss of muscle when in a caloric deficit. 

Protein is muscle-sparing and helps to achieve the “toned” look as opposed to the skinny look that people often experience when losing weight. If you are in a caloric deficit then keeping the protein as high possible can help to prevent too much muscle being lost.

If you’ve ever seen the end-result of somebody who has lost a substantial amount of weight by cutting calories alone without also focusing on macros (especially protein) and not incorporating resistance training (Slimming World, for example) you will know that these methods lead very different results. Basically, you look good in clothing but not in swimwear / naked.

This is one of the reasons that we get clients who have had some weight loss success with SW but then want to tone up. It’s a lot easier to do it from the outset than trying to play catch-up once you’ve lost that amount of muscle.

2: Protein is satiating. I.E. it keeps you fuller for longer than, for example, sugar.

If you’ve ever had a meal with lots of lean meat, fish or chicken, you’ll know how filling it is. It takes longer to digest, too, which means that you can maintain a decent caloric deficit, without being hungry.

3: Protein has a greater thermic effect than carbs or fats (AKA Specific Dynamic Action).

“The thermic effect of food is the energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients. Its magnitude depends on the composition of the food consumed”.

  • Protein: 20 to 35% of the energy consumed
  • Carbohydrates: 5 to 15% of the energy consumed
  • Fats: at most 5 to 15 % of the energy consumed

For every 500 calories of protein consumed, up to 35% is used in digestion – this equates to 175 calories. This means that by eating a high protein diet you can feel fuller, look better and create a bigger caloric deficit than you would if you were eating a high carb or high fat diet.

This is why someone who eats 1500 calories with this nutrition plan will look a lot more toned and lose more weight than if they ate 1500 calories on a Slimming World plan. They feel fuller, create a bigger “hole” in their calories and build/retain more muscle mass.

4: Protein builds muscle, which means more lean mass.

A decent amount of lean mass combined with low body fat creates the toned look that many people are aiming for. Also, more lean mass needs just a little more energy to sustain it so, once you’ve built that muscle, you can eat more calories!

Don’t Let The Tail Wag The Dog!

It’s important, however, to remember that, in terms of fat loss, the key issue is calories in calories out, so it’s important not to “let the tail wag the dog” and try to eat lots of protein at the expense of a decent caloric deficit. Yes, aim for as much protein as possible in order to preserve muscle mass (a key component of “toning”) but don’t blow your calories and don’t eat extra calories chasing protein! 

One of the most common questions we get is, “How do I get in my protein without going over my calories?” The answer is to eat plenty of high protein, low calorie foods!

Foods are not just made up of pure protein or pure carb/fat, so the composition of food will determine how many calories are in it. Some foods contain a reasonable amount of protein, but also fats and carbs, which increase the calories (think satiety!).

Below is a table of common foods, with the calories per 30g protein listed. As you can see, you can get 30g of protein from 120 calories of prawns or 1000 calories of oats. Oats are great for carbs and fibre but I wouldn’t even think about them as a protein source because the protein-calorie ratio is just too high.

Table showing calories per 30g protein for a number of common foods

So, whilst in a caloric deficit, in order to encourage your body to lose fat, rather than muscle, it’s important to keep the protein levels high! Depending on your goal, this could be anywhere between 100-300g a day. A ball park figure 150-200g+ (men) / 100-150g+ (women). The rest of your macros should be split between carbs (fibrous veg, fruit, oats, brown rice etc) and healthy fats (salmon and other oily fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs etc). This will help you to get great results and improve your health, without getting hungry!

Summary

Protein can help you:

  • Lose more body fat
  • Feel fuller
  • Prevent hunger
  • Look more toned
  • Get stronger
  • Gain muscle
  • Eat more food

In conclusion,  you will lose more body fat, gain more muscle and feel less hungry following a nutrition plan with lots of protein than you will focusing only on calories!

Basically, 1500 calories of chicken, prawns, eggs and lots of fruit and veg is a completely different proposition to 1500 calories of bread, pasta, Special K and Haribo!