The secret to protein as a weight-loss aid is that it helps you feel full for a longer time than eating other things. Protein is digested more slowly than other foods, helping you to feel satisfied and less likely to go back for more.
Many women start to shed pounds more easily after increasing the proportion of protein in their diet, since high-protein foods take more “work” to digest, metabolize, and utilize. That means you burn more calories processing them. This is known as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). Proteins have a high TEF.
Proteins also remain longer in your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer period of time, in contrast to the soar-crash-and-burn effect that can come from eating fatty foods and refined (processed) carbohydrates.
Making lean protein part of your diet is essential for making sure you lose fat, not muscle, if your weight-loss regimen includes exercise, which it should. Your body uses the amino acids in protein to build lean muscle, which not only makes you stronger and more toned but even burns calories even when you are at rest.
A woman trying to lose weight should eat about 40 grams of protein per 10 pounds of her weight, per day. So if you weigh say, 130 pounds, that translates into around half a kilo of lean protein. That’s a hefty amount of fish, chicken or meat, and further on the upside, eating large amounts of protein can help boost the feeling of satiety. Not only are you spared those post-meal cravings for more: you may be less likely to snack at night.
How does protein reduce appetite? By reducing the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and boosting the appetite-reducing hormones GLP-1 and PYY.
Protein for Vegetarians
If you’re vegetarian, weight-loss experts recommend protein-rich foods like nuts, beans, and legumes. Studies have shown that animal-based and plant-based protein sources are equally as good for weight loss.