Protein: Are You Eating Enough to Slim Down?

Here’s a weight loss prescription for dropping pounds without losing muscle tone.

Protein is the perfect diet food for women who want to lose weight without sacrificing muscle tone. According to “Protein: Your Secret Weight-Loss Weapon,” a piece in Women’s Health, women aren’t getting their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein, the macronutrient that curbs appetite and mobilizes metabolism.

Why not? There are two obvious reasons.

Protein isn’t grab-and-go. It’s easier to get your hands on an apple or energy bar than say, a complete protein food (see below). The fact that protein’s less portable than veggies and carbs is one reason nutritionists say Americans eat less of it.

High-protein is perceived poorly by calorie counters. It isn’t always the case, but nutrition pros say compulsive calorie-counters know that most proteins will bank more calories than say, apple slices or carrot sticks.

If you’re serious about losing weight, stop making excuses and consider these points:

  • Protein builds lean muscle. Your body uses protein’s amino acids to build lean muscle. Lean muscle has three great benefits: It makes you stronger, tones and defines your figure, and burns more calories at rest than fat.
  • Protein helps curb appetite. It takes more work and more time to digest protein-rich foods. This isn’t the entire reason why experts say protein helps control appetite – they have yet to nail the exact correlation. Some theories believe high-protein diets slow the release of appetite-stimulating hormones, while others surmise a specific effect on hunger hormones and brain chemistry.
  • It’s okay to be picky. There are high-protein foods, and then there are complete protein foods. A complete protein is a food that contains all of the amino acids required to form lean muscle. These complete proteins are usually animal products, chicken and seafood. Vegetarians can combine incomplete proteins, like whole wheat bread and peanut butter, for example, to reap the benefits of animal sources.

How many grams of protein should you be eating each day? Aim for between 0.5 and 1.0 grams for each pound you weigh.

Bonus tip: Boost your efforts by devoting 30 of these grams to breakfast. A body running without fuel will use muscle tissue for energy, which will hamper efforts to burn fat and get toned.

For healthy eating ideas, check out our gallery of 11 healthy lean protein sources.

Sources: Women’s Health, Web MD

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest