How To Lose Body Fat With Protein
Back in part one of our mini-series on protein we discussed the basics and how protein gets used in the human body. We touched on how much protein to eat for health. You can check it out here.
If you have not yet read this post, please go back and go over the content as it will give you a greater understanding of what we will discuss today. It’s okay, there’s no rush. Go ahead and read it!
Awesome. Right. Time to understand why protein is so f##king important for fat loss.
Get calorie balance right
To effectively start your fat loss journey you need create an environment where your body burns fat stores for energy in a process called fat oxidation. This is achieved through a calorie deficit. Less energy in (eat less total calories) - more energy out (move and exercise more.)
All foods contain calories and some have more than others. But what you need to know is it really doesn’t matter how your body achieves a calorie deficit.
You could lower total carbohydrate intake, fat intake or even your daily protein intake. As long as you burn more calories than you take in you will be in a state of fat oxidation.
Side note - all popular diets do this. Low-carb, paleo and intermittent fasting to name a few do this exact thing, just in different ways. Sorry to break it to you but they are not that special.
So why is protein so important then?
For two major reasons:
It's the most satiating food out there.
It helps you to retain muscle stores.
To get why you need to know this, check these crazy facts out:
One 12 month study  compared gender and protein intake for fat loss where participants were prescribed to a low carb - high protein diet or high carb - low protein diet. Calories were set equally (1700 kcal for females and 1900 kcal for males.)
We already know that eating less overall calories will ensure fat loss. But the study wanted to compare different macronutrient ratios to determine if the type of food we ate mattered. The results showed that fat loss occurred in both diet protocols (as expected) but there was a greater loss for the protein diet!
This 12 week study  had a similar structure in which obese females were prescribed a high protein - low carb diet or a high carb - low protein diet (34% protein intake against a 17% protein intake which represents the percentage of daily calories coming from protein.) Again both diets controlled for calories (1400 kcal.) The results show that the higher protein diet showed a slightly better mean weight loss over the higher carbohydrate group!
These two studies represent a strong correlation that an increased protein intake aids us in our battle to shed fat.
While it certainly doesn't mean that protein is a magical entity, it really, really, really helps. A lot.
Why is it so effective? Protein is the most satiating food group you can eat.
To support this notion researchers looked at single meals consumed with increased protein intake in comparison to carbohydrate meals . There was an increase in overall feelings of satiety and a reduction in overall food consumed for the protein meal.
So not only did the weight come off, it will stay off because it’s easier to consume less calories when you are full!
Want another reason to up your protein levels?
Muscle stores are metabolically expensive.
The human body does not need giant quads or eighteen inch biceps. It needs fat stores to keep you nice and insulated in case you suddenly find yourself homeless without the guarantee of a meal in the immediate future.
The human body has not evolved that much passed our caveman ancestors which is why we are designed to be fat storing kings, and not Mr Olympia.
How would we hunt down a Sabre-toothed Tiger if we couldn't keep up with it?
Your body will do all it can to burn muscle stores as a priority because you don't an overabundance of muscle like we see today.
So don’t give your body a reason to! A higher protein diet will retain as much muscle as possible, whilst using stores of fat for energy,
Unless of course you are trying to diet down and go for the skinny-runt look. In that case go right ahead. Just eat less calories and go nuts!
But what about health risks you ask?
Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns with a higher protein diet. But really there is nothing to worry about if you consume a higher daily intake of protein unless you already have kidney problems.
Looking back at the single meal study not only did participants in the higher protein group (2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight) burn more fat mass than the standard protein group (1.1 grams per kilogram) they experienced a reduction in overall LDL ('bad') cholesterol. The artery blocker.
It may also lower the risk for cardiovascular disease. A health nurse study  observed a 26% lower chance for the disease in women with a higher protein intake than those in a lower protein intake, especially in overweight or obese women due to the satiety effect and the better glycemic control (control of sugar in the blood.)
The caveat Of course it’s not that simple and there is more to fat loss than simply consuming more protein. So much more. If you simply eat more protein but don't lower daily calorie intake from carbs or fats then you will not lose fat. Period.
Think of daily calorie intake as the king, whilst other factors such as protein/carb/fat intake, fibre, sleep, stress, hydration levels are the court hands that help the castle maintain its upkeep.
You also don’t want to consume any old protein. Quality still counts. Always aim to include complete proteins that have the correct ratios of essential amino acids. You should know what this means and where to get them from. If not that means you ignored the advice and skipped over part one.
A good place to shoot for is three to four meals per day of good quality protein sources like chicken, eggs, fish, whey or quinoa. This should make up the foundation of your dietary protein intake. Save the red meat for the odd occasion, and the same for processed meat. Start with just hitting an overall intake of roughly 2 grams per kilogram of body weight for both males and females. Realistically anything up to 3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is fine. But shoot for 2 grams and you're all good.
This should wrap up the protein debate now, and I hope it's helped you create some context for your own diet and what is needed to help you on the way to a strong and lean physique!