Protein – Its Importance in Nutrition and Weight Loss

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I’ve been a confirmed movie buff my whole life and now in my twilight years I’m realizing that TV shows of the 50’s and 60’s have also seriously affected my life. Specifically, “Have Gun Will Travel” and its influence on my consulting experience over the years (little or no shooting involved, however). As a consequence of this fascination I rarely fail to call to mind a film scene when looking for an example, metaphor, analogy, etc. Today the scene comes from a favorite “Conan the Barbarian” where future Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about to dine on spit roasted free range chicken peels off and throws away the skin before eating. This scene and its significance sticks with me for many reasons, however, let me limit my discussion to this particular barbarian’s focus on protein and not fat. When searching for the best way to lose weight manipulating the proportions of the macronutrients Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein seems like a good place to start our research.

We need protein throughout our lives, for a variety of bodily functions. It’s the major component of all cells, including muscle and bone. Protein is needed for growth, development, and immunity in order to fight off infections and protect the body.

In theory, losing weight is quite simple, eat less and exercise more, although true, this of course is a gross simplification on a number of levels. Finding a diet with the right combination of nutrients, that you enjoy, and works for you within your lifestyle is a very individual process requiring at the minimum some careful thought, before taking disciplined action.

So the question begs, “Will increasing the proportion of protein in a thoughtful weight loss regimen result in effective and safe weight loss?”

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants reported greater satisfaction, less hunger, and weight loss when fat was reduced to 20% of the total calories in their diets while protein was increased to 30%, and carbohydrates accounted for the remaining 50%. On average the study participants ate some 441 fewer calories a day when they followed this high-protein diet and regulated their own calorie intake. Bringing into play a calculation I’ve used in other Ezine articles a 441 calories per day savings, if sustained for an entire year, would represent (441 calories/day X 365 days = 160,965 calories) not consumed or the equivalent of 46 pounds not eaten. Whether this represents weight loss is determined by how many calories our body requires for its BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) or more precisely it’s TEE (Total Energy Expenditure).

A similar study, reported in the Journal of Nutrition, indicated that a high-protein diet combined with exercise increased weight and fat loss and improved blood fat levels. Researchers thereby suggest that higher-protein diets help people better control their appetites and calorie intake. Unless you have kidney disease, there are no dangers associated with higher intakes of protein; however, a very recent study implies that excessive protein consumption may well lead to increased leeching of calcium from the bones leading inevitably to osteoporosis. To be on the safe side, as always, check with your physician before committing to a process of ramping up to a larger proportion of protein in your diet.

To get the potential weight loss benefit, experts advise aiming for around 120 grams of protein a day. If you want to increase your protein intake, ramp up slowly over the course of a week. Diets higher in protein and moderate in carbohydrates, along with a lifestyle of regular exercise are often touted by experts to reduce blood fats and maintain lean tissue while burning fat for fuel without dieters being demotivated by constant hunger.

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