THE POWER OF PROTEIN
The fundamentals of weight loss are centred on creating a negative energy balance i.e. burning more calories than you take in. Increased protein intake has been shown to assist with satiety (feeling of fullness) and reduced voluntary food intake. But the effects of protein don’t stop there! Protein has been shown to have an excellent thermogenic effect (1). That is, the moment it leaves your fork, it starts working for you! High-protein foods use more energy (when compared with carbohydrate and fat) to digest, metabolise and use; helping your body burn more calories on a daily basis.
MAINTAIN LEAN MASS
One of the major misconceptions of weight loss is that a pound lost on the scales translates to a pound lost on the hips. Unfortunately, more often than not, this isn’t the case. During periods of weight loss many people also lose large amounts of muscle; something which typically occurs if you are dieting without exercising. With muscle loss comes a reduction in calorie (energy) requirements because muscle is an active calorie burner. A group of researchers at the University of Birmingham (2) found that a high-protein diet (with 35% of daily total energy intake coming from protein) may assist with this. They concluded that a high-protein, low-calorie diet resulted in a significant loss of body fat yet maintained muscle mass which, in the majority of cases and particularly in athletic populations, is often the target.
The main goal of weight loss is to lose the weight and then keep it off, i.e. weight loss maintenance. Sound easy? Well, the stats say otherwise. Research has found that a mere 10-20% of participants were able to maintain a weight loss of at least 5% after 5 years. The results of other research also look far from appealing; five years after completing structured weight loss programmes, people only maintain a 3% weight loss. For years these statistics have percolated on researchers and dieters alike with many new dietary concepts and regimes formulated to combat this issue. One persistent winner in this case seems to be the high-protein diet with a plethora of studies demonstrating that high protein intake sustains body weight loss in humans. Consider this: A Maastricht University Study (3) in the Netherlands found that a low-fat, high-casein or whey protein weight management diet was more effective for weight control than low-fat, high carbohydrate (HC) diets. Remarkably, during the ad libitum weight maintenance period subjects in the HC group gained weight, whereas both protein groups lost approximately an additional 1 kg body weight! I say no more.
HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
It is well recognised that there are definite health benefits to following a diet rich in protein. Research by the Harvard Medical School explains that a high-protein diet that is low in saturated fat can lower blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), provided there is an emphasis on consuming healthy protein sources such as beans, chicken and fish. There is also convincing evidence that increasing protein intake can help prevent obesity, osteoporosis, and diabetes (4).
TYPE AND TIMING OF INTAKE
Not all proteins are the same. One of the ways in which proteins differ from one another is through their absorption rate by the body which can influence how the protein you consume exerts its effect on your body. In light of this, I have noted my top 3 protein supplements which I have compiled on the basis of their absorption rates amongst other features that can assist you in getting the most out of your high-protein diet.
Source: Impact Diet Whey
Timing: A great alternative to unhealthy snacks in between meals.
Why I recommend it:
• Contains a precision blend of ingredients including…
(1) Essential macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fibre: important for the prevention of muscle breakdown, sustained energy release and healthy digestion.
(2) Green Tea Extract: a strong anti-oxidant which can assist in the thermogenic effect of Impact Diet Whey
(3) Acetyl L Carnitine: an amino acid that is essential to the metabolism of body fat.
(4) Essential Fatty Acids: providing healthy fats to help fuel your workouts.
Source: Hurricane XS
Timing: Morning time and/or post exercise.
Why I recommend it:
• One of the most forward thinking ‘all-in-one’ supplements on the market.
• Excellent as a meal replacement and for those who are exercising frequently.
• Contains (1) Slow digesting carbohydrates (2) Whey Protein Isolate (the gold standard in protein powders) and (3) Whey Protein Concentrate; providing you with a sustained release of energy and aiding in muscle growth and repair.
• Also contains Creapure® which has a strong reputation for increasing lean gains and strength!
Source: Milk Protein Smooth
Timing: Between meals and before bed.
Why I recommend it:
• High in protein, low in carbohydrate and fat.
• Provides a tapered supply of amino acids to the muscle over a long period of time. This can help to prevent hunger between meals and prevent muscle breakdown during the night when the body is often starved of nutrients.
• Its taste is extremely neutral so it can be consumed in various forms including; protein shakes, smoothies and yoghurts.
A final thought…
Everything you DO, everything you ARE and everything you BECOME depend upon the actions of thousands of different proteins (5)
Mythbuster: Eggs yolks should be avoided and thrown away. This is absolute rubbish! Eggs are a fantastic source of protein because they contain all eight essential amino acids. By throwing away the yolk you are essentially reducing the power of the egg because the yolks balance out the amino acid profile and make the protein more bio-available. You are also throwing out the most nutrient dense, antioxidant-rich, vitamin and mineral loaded portion of the egg. The yolk contains a plentiful supply of B-vitamins, calcium, choline, folate, iron, lutein, panthothenic acid, thiamine, trace minerals and zinc as well as ALL of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bottom line, enjoy eggs in their entirety!
1. Westerterp-Platenga, M. S., Lemmens, S. G., & Westerterp, K. R. (2012). Dietary protein – its role in satiety, energetics, weight loss and health. British Journal of Nutrition, 108, 105-112.
2. Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., & Tipton, K. D. (2010). Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass during weight loss in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42, 326-327.
3. Claessens, M., van Baak, M. A., Monsheimer, S., & Saris, W. H. M. (2009).The effect of a low-fat, high-protein or high-carbohydrate ad libitum diet on weight loss maintenance and metabolic risk factors. International Journal of Obesity, 33, 296-304.
4. Hu, F. B., Walte, C., & Willett, M. D. (2002). Optimal diets for the prevention of coronary heart disease. JAMA, 288, 2569-2578.
5. Houston, ME (2006). Biochemistry Primer for Exercise Science. Champaign IL, Human Kinetics.