Is protein the “magic” potion to promote weight loss? Are there other health benefits? Many may be wondering this due to the increase in popularity of protein powders and packaged items drawing attention to the amount of protein in products. What’s going on with all this focus on protein?
Consuming Adequate Amounts of Protein
Here is the scoop! Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, feel more satisfied from meals or promote optimal health, consuming an adequate amount of healthy sources of protein is very important. For adequate intake, the Dietary Reference Intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, which is about 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. The amount is greater for those that are physically active and usually the elderly.
However, to truly assist with weight loss and prevent the loss of muscle, studies show that a protein intake of about 30% of calories appears optimal. This is because the amount of energy a person burns increases. It actually takes more calories to burn protein than it does fat or carbohydrates. The amount of calories consumed in a day is also reduced because the 30% level has been shown to decrease the appetite. In addition, this level does not cause negative health effects in individuals that are healthy. In fact, studies also show that this level, when comprised of heart-healthy protein sources, also improves blood pressure and cholesterol values.
It Adds Up: Calculate Your Protein Needs
Multiply the number of calories that you consume on a daily basis to meet your weight goals by 0.075. The resulting figure represents the number of grams of protein you would need to consume per day to make up 30% of your calories. For example, 135 grams of protein is the amount for a 1,800 calorie level. Aim to distribute this evenly throughout the day.
Include at least 30 grams at breakfast. If you work out, refuel with at least 15 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Just remember that protein also has calories and consuming any kind of excess calories leads to weight gain, so more protein is not always better.
To promote optimal health and keep saturated fat in check:
- Choose mostly protein that is lean and low-sodium and limit highly processed foods.
- Make sure to include vegetables at every meal and aim to choose fruits and vegetables as snacks.
- Review the Nutrition Facts Label to see how much protein is in the item you are consuming. This is because meat isn’t the only source.
Putting These Principles in Practice
“Holiday” Meatballs Meal
This meal features 100% ground turkey (lean protein) and whole grains (plant-based protein). Add a side of tossed salad topped with a sprinkle of cheese and your favorite nuts for added protein and 1-2 servings of veggies.
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