Thursday, December 23, 2010

Protein and Weight Loss – The Basics

Whey Protein and Weight Loss – The Basics


Consuming an adequate amount of high quality protein while on a weight loss program is critical to success. Protein can help reduce cravings, enhance calorie-burning, and preserve muscle – all key elements to a rewarding weight loss program.

There is a large abundance of information on protein and weight loss. Most of this information seems far too technical and confusing. This article is intended to provide the basic, essential information that you need to know about protein if you are on a weight loss program or are thinking about going on a weight loss program. I address the critical issues in this article including the benefits of consuming protein, how protein can help you, and when, what kind, and how much protein you should consume while on a weight loss program.

Benefits of Whey Protein During a Weight Loss Program

Consuming enough protein through your diet while on a weight loss program can have a dramatic effect on the effectiveness of that program. A study of 32 women and 95 men who replaced two meals with a 15 gram whey protein supplement each day for six months showed the effectiveness of protein on improving weight loss. Although 15 grams is a small amount of protein, the results were still very positive. On average, during these six months participants lost 20 pounds while cholesterol and triglycerides – key health parameters – also improved.

Getting adequate protein can help to lose fat instead of muscle, increase calorie burning, and keep you feeling full rather than starving and struggling to maintain your diet. In addition, protein also helps to improve muscularity, build HDL (“good”) cholesterol, improve antioxidant function, support blood sugar metabolism, and improve immunity.

During weight loss, our bodies can easily lose a lot of muscle mass and even bone mass due to the restricted calorie diets. You can largely prevent this from happening by eating more protein while on your weight loss program. If you consume an adequate amount of protein while losing weight you can do your best to make sure that you are losing fat as opposed to muscle. This redistribution – less fat and the same or more muscle – will result in a shapelier and more ideal body figure.

Consuming protein can also enhance calorie burning – improving the results of your weight loss program. Protein can directly benefit muscle function and health – including improving calorie burning by muscle which enhances your weight loss regimen. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet helps to burn more calories when the body is converting protein to glucose. Therefore, to maximize the effectiveness of your weight loss program’s ability to enhance calorie burning, consume plenty of high quality weight protein.

The third and arguably most immediate benefit to consuming whey protein during weight loss is its ability to improve your feeling of fullness or satisfaction after eating. Whey protein is helpful in improving your brain’s feeling of satisfaction after eating; there are elements in protein that regulate appetite, a benefit derived only from consuming a high amount of whey protein. Research has even hinted that whey protein might be more effective at satisfying hunger than carbohydrates or fats.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants reported greater weight loss and less hunger when on a higher protein diet. Protein appears to act like an appetite suppressant resulting in less binge eating between meals. An especially important time to eat protein at breakfast, this will help you control cravings for starches and sweets throughout the day.

Protein has innumerable benefits for the body and it is especially important for dieters on a weight loss program. Consuming an adequate amount of whey protein will help you preserve muscle mass, enhance calorie burning, and improve your feeling of fullness – all of which will lead to a more successful weight loss program.

How Whey Protein Helps Weight Loss

This is not meant to be a technical article about the bodily processes that create the benefits listed above through consuming whey protein. But, I will mention a few basic items to provide a bit of background information about how whey protein helps weight loss.

Protein is comprised of amino acids. Scientists have found that branch chain amino acids are the most important amino acids. If you consume enough of the right kind of protein, you will get a lot of leucine – one of the most important amino acids – which can activate a slow metabolism and improve your body’s ability to lose weight. Leucine can signal your muscle and help prevent muscle loss during weight loss. Therefore, with adequate amounts of this amino acid, your weight loss will come from fat instead of muscle.

Additionally, protein helps ensure that you are making quality HDL (“good” cholesterol) at an ideal rate. A high protein diet can help to lower triglycerides and support HDL formation. Both of these results will help weight loss.

Nitrogen, contained in protein, is preferred by the body; therefore protein is more likely to be converted to carbohydrates rather than fat. This uses up energy and helps us burn more calories. Protein is the main metabolic activator of the liver. When your liver is working in an optimal state, you can dramatically increase your metabolic rate much more than through carbohydrates or fat.

In conclusion, the body has specific processes for using the protein you consume. For the most part, these processes result in favorable outcomes superior to the consumption of carbohydrates and fat – hence the popularity of high protein, low carbohydrate, and low fat diets.

When, What Kind, and How Much Whey Protein to Consume

Now that you know the benefits of consuming whey protein while on a weight loss program and a bit about how it works you need to know when, what kind, and how much whey protein to consume. With the over-proliferation of information available on these topics, I will only provide the essential information for you to evaluate your protein supplementation needs while on your weight loss program.

When is the best time to consume whey protein?

The body has varying needs for protein throughout the day. There are basically four main times that are optimal for consuming protein: in the morning, before a workout, after a workout, and before going to sleep. The last option, before going to sleep, is not ideal for those on a weight loss program because you should not really be eating anything for a few hours prior to going to sleep. Protein, although not as bad as fat, is still calories that you should avoid eating too late while on a weight loss program. Eating protein at night is likely only necessary for those involved in strength training who want to minimize protein breakdown while sleeping.

So, we are left with three choices. Consuming some protein before a workout can be beneficial for energy (good a couple of hours before working out). Right after a workout your body goes into a stage of growth and recovery, having the amino acids that make up the protein is key at this point. But, the most important time for consuming protein is at breakfast or first thing in the morning.

In the morning, your body has just gone through a full night of not having food and your protein levels are low. A high protein breakfast wakes up the liver and gets it active. A high protein breakfast can increase your metabolic rate by 30 percent for as long as 12 hours – equal to the calories burned during a 4 mile jog. In a recent study, individuals who ate a high protein and high carbohydrate breakfast lost nearly 23 pounds on average in the first 4 months of an 8-month study. Those who ate the high protein and high carbohydrate breakfast reported having fewer carbohydrate cravings and felt less hungry, especially before lunch. Even eating just two eggs for breakfast instead of consuming the same amount of calories from carbohydrates has been shown to boost weight loss by 65%.

To summarize, breakfast is the ideal time to consume protein when on a weight loss program, but before and after workouts are also good times. Having a high protein breakfast is needed to maximize the benefits of your weight loss program.

What is the best source of protein?

Protein is contained in a lot of foods, but you need to be careful while on a weight loss program because many of the sources of protein are high in fat. Some of the highest sources of good protein are animal and dairy sources including cottage cheese and red meat. Other sources include eggs, chicken, pork, nuts, vegetables, and seeds.

There are two kinds of protein: complete and incomplete. Soy and animal proteins are called complete proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids. On the other hand, plant products, including vegetables and nuts, are called incomplete because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids. Your body needs complete proteins, but that does not mean you cannot get what you need without eating meat or soy products. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, eat a combination of plant proteins that complement each other such as rice and beans to make sure you are getting all of the amino acids your body requires.

You want to look for protein sources that are low in fat and calories, yet are nutrient-rich. Sources of animal protein are usually higher in fat than plant-based sources. But, there are lean complete proteins such as seafood, lean beef, egg whites, and skinless chicken. Other protein sources that have a lot of protein and are low in fat include beans, nuts, and

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    Maitland Personal Trainer

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