Promo code SPRING2022 will be automatically applied at checkout!

Why Protein is Important for Weight Loss

Written by
Yumna Farooq
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Heather Davis
MS, RDN, LDN
Fried eggs sunny side up

Protein is vital for human life, and in past articles, we’ve outlined all the different health benefits this macronutrient brings. Protein is essential for building muscle, improves bone health, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and can even help you feel more satiated throughout the day.

It should come as no surprise that protein can also play an important role in sustainable weight loss. But how exactly can protein be beneficial for losing weight, what types of protein should you include in your diet, and how much is the right amount?

Read on to find out more about the effects of protein on your weight loss goals.

How Does Weight Loss Work? 

Person stepping on scale

Have you heard the philosophy that weight loss is a “calories in, calories out” game? Although a calorie deficit can indeed have a large impact, there are other factors that play into weight regulation. Your glucose levels, thyroid hormone levels, overall muscle mass, metabolic rate, activity levels and diet can also affect your body weight.

Apart from caloric intake, weight loss is also governed by your metabolism and basal metabolic rate. If your metabolic rate is high, you’ll burn more calories both at rest and during activity, which can make it easier to lose weight.

Metabolic rate can be increased with adequate exercise, a healthy diet with sufficient protein, strength training, and even sufficient sleep. However, other factors such as hormones also have to be balanced for weight regulation. 

Hormonal imbalances can occur in conditions such as PCOS and hypothyroidism, and even during menopause, which can hinder your ability to keep the pounds off.

Why Protein is so Important for Weight Loss

So where does a protein-rich diet come into play when it comes to weight loss? Let’s take a look at the various ways that the amount of protein you consume can have an effect on weight management.

Helps Build Muscle 

Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which is why having more muscle mass can boost your metabolic rate. Your body builds muscle using amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.

There are 20 different amino acids, nine of which are considered essential. Unlike non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids are those that your body cannot produce, so you must get them from dietary protein sources. 

Building lean muscle mass can affect your resting metabolic rate, which can help you burn more calories. Protein intake is one of the factors that influences the rate of muscle growth, so if you’re eating enough protein, your body can build muscle more efficiently.

Muscle growth is also dependent on getting all essential amino acids to finish the process and create a complete protein for muscle tissues to use. The rest of the body will also use these essential amino acids for their functions instead of pulling from muscle tissue.

Helps with Hormone Regulation 

Person checking scale

Amino acids are also the building block for several hormones such as thyroid hormones and insulin. It also plays a role in regulating reproductive hormone levels. All of these hormones play a role in weight regulation.

Thyroid hormones regulate weight and metabolism, and when there are low levels of such hormones, (a condition called hypothyroidism), weight gain becomes more likely.

Insulin secretion is also important when it comes to weight loss. This is because research has shown a link between insulin sensitivity and obesity. Inadequate protein intake can lead to imbalanced hormones which can then affect weight loss. For example, one study conducted on mice observed that severe protein deficiency can lead to imbalanced thyroid hormones. 

Keeps You Feeling Satiated

One of the other benefits of consuming lots of protein-rich foods is that it can help with satiety. Studies show that higher protein intake is linked to increased satiety after meals and can also reduce feelings of hunger.

Research also suggests that a higher protein diet can help reduce cravings by supporting reward-driven eating behavior. This can be beneficial for anyone who is working to lose weight, given that eating more satiating meals can potentially help reduce your calorie intake and make healthier choices throughout the day. 

Another clinical trial also found strong evidence to support the effectiveness of high protein diets on weight loss.The researchers in this study also observed that there appeared to be a link between high protein consumption and a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

Protein Intake for Fitness and Weight Loss

Plate of chicken with veggies

When it comes to adequate protein consumption for you and your health needs, here’s what the research recommends:

  • Sedentary adults under the age of 65, with no injuries or illnesses should aim to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Active adults under the age of 65 with no injuries or illnesses should be consuming 1.0-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Adults over the age of 65 should be consuming 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight., whether they are sedentary or active.

However, your protein needs may vary depending on other factors such as activity level, sex. Be sure to discuss the correct amount of protein and other macronutrients to add to your diet by consulting a registered dietitian or nutritionist. They can help you determine how much protein you should be consuming for your individual needs.

What’s the Best Protein Source?

When increasing the amount of protein in your diet, the Nutrisense Nutrition Team recommends sticking to whole food protein sources. 

However, it’s important to consider that there are two types of protein sources: complete and incomplete. Complete sources contain all nine essential amino acids, whole incomplete proteins only contain some of those amino acids.

You will want to make sure to include a wide variety of protein sources in your diet, especially if you are someone who follows a plant-based diet.

Here are some examples of complete proteins:

Salmon fillets
  • Lean meats such as chicken breast or turkey
  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • Fish and seafood
  • Soy products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame
  • Red meat
  • Dairy (such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese)

If you’re on a plant-based diet, you may want to vary your sources of high-protein foods to ensure you’re consuming all of the essential amino acids. This is because some plant-based protein sources are deficient in some of the essential amino acids found in animal products and soy.

Some other good sources of protein (although not complete protein sources) include:

  • Legumes and pulses such as lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas
  • Nuts (and nut butters such as peanut butter)
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

Leucine is an exceptionally important amino acid for supporting muscle growth. Leucine-rich foods include dairy, fish/seafood, beans/legumes, pork, chicken, seeds and nuts.

Do Protein Supplements Boost Weight Loss?

Protein powder

BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, make up three of the nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are often promoted in the fitness industry for their potential effects on muscle growth and increasing lean mass. 

While their effects on muscle growth are debated, some research suggests that BCAAs can help with fat metabolism and may improve overall body composition when combined with a calorie deficit. 

Unfortunately however, their effect on weight loss does not appear to be statistically significant. More research may be needed to determine the effectiveness of BCAAs as a part of a weight-loss diet plan.

What About BCAAs?

BCAA protein powder

BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, make up three of the nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are often promoted in the fitness industry for their potential effects on muscle growth and increasing lean mass. 

While their effects on muscle growth are debated, some research suggests that BCAAs can help with fat metabolism and may improve overall body composition when combined with a calorie deficit. 

Unfortunately however, their effect on weight loss does not appear to be statistically significant. More research may be needed to determine the effectiveness of BCAAs as a part of a weight-loss diet plan.

Related Article

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

#joinnutrisense
Find the right Nutrisense program    to help you discover and reach your health potential.