The Role of Protein in Fitness and Weight Loss

The correct amount of protein – and also the correct kind of protein – is the most effective calorie burning factor affecting your metabolic rate. Increasing your metabolic rate, and keeping it elevated over a longer period of time is the key to healthy, quick and effective weight loss and enhanced fitness. So, given that its so important,  let’s first address the two kinds of protein and discover why most people don’t even know that there is a difference.

Types of Protein

Like many things in life, not all proteins are created equal. Some proteins are considered “complete” because they contain all 9 amino acids. Proteins such as these are generally to be found in animal products, such as skinless white chicken, seafood, pork tenderloin, turkey breast, lean beef and even in some low-fat dairy products. The common thing they all share is that these are all low in fat (having only 1 to 3 grams per 50 calorie serving).

Other foods,like nuts, whole grains and vegetables are termed to be “incomplete” proteins because, and you guessed it, they don't contain all nine amino acids. While still important, and of course you do need a balance to stay fit and healthy, you really need complete proteins to build lean muscle; the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn.

Amount of Protein

So, having established the different kinds of protein, we now need to  move on to the amount of protein you should eat. Most experts advise eating between 1/2 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. So,  a 140-pound person should be eating roughy between 70 to 140 grams of protein per day. You shoudl also eat:

• more towards the high end, if you are very active
• more towards the lower end, if you are trying to lose weight
• somewhere in the middle, if you are trying to do both

To take it a step further, at least 30 grams should come from a healthy, hearty breakfast, such as two eggs and a cup of cottage cheese. Why? Well, the answers simple. After fasting all night, your body’s energy stores are depleted and, if you don’t provide it with a source of energy pretty soon after getting up, then it will start drawing on muscle mass for fuel.

Eating protein first thing in the morning is vitally important because it increases your metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent and keeps it at that rate for up to 12 hours. Amazingly, this is the same calorie burning effect that youderive from a  three to five mile jog. Of course, if don’t eat breakfast, you will probably start to lose muscle mass, meaning that you won’t burn as many calories – and this is something you don’t want to happen.

One of the reasons why complete proteins work so well in fitness and weight loss programs is that the amino acid leucine is metabolized in the muscles instead of the liver, which prevents the body from using muscle mass as energy.

Protein also works well in helping you lose weight in that it takes more energy to break it down, digest, metabolize and use it than the other calories sources, namely carbohydrates and fats. Because proteins stay in your stomach longer, you feel fuller over a longer period of time which means you are less likely to get hungry as soon and consume more calories than you should.

This was verified by a study published in Nutrition Metabolism magazine. The people in the study that had increased their intake of protein to 30 percent of their total daily calories consumed almost 450 fewer calories per day and lost on average 11 pounds over the course of the 12-week study. No other changes were made to their diet.

Eating more grams of complete protein that what is normally recommended is needed for improved fitness, healthy weight loss, and most importantly to keep the weight off after a weight loss program.


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