How much protein should I eat to lose weight? Whether you want to just drop a couple of pounds or you're on a longer-term weight loss plan, what food you eat is just as important as how much food you eat.
Protein is one of the body's building blocks. Without it, we'd struggle with everything from staying balanced to staying asleep. However, it's particularly important for those who are wanting to lose weight as complements the all-important calorie deficit, which is where you eat fewer calories than you burn every day, by helping us build muscle and stay fuller for longer.
However, how much protein you'll eat normally compared to how much protein you should eat to lose weight are two very different numbers so we spoke to a nutritionist to determine the right amount for your goals, plus all the best protein powders to enjoy and the additional health benefits of protein powder to be aware of if you're looking to change your diet.
How much protein should I eat to lose weight?
If you want to lose weight, you should aim for around 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight every day, explains Signe Svanfeldt (opens in new tab), a nutritionist and food science specialist. "In general, it's recommended to eat around 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight but if you are in a calorie deficit to lose weight, you might want to include slightly more protein in your diet," she says.
"Protein plays an important role in building and maintaining cells, in producing enzymes and hormones," Svanfeldt, who also works alongside healthy eating app Lifesum (opens in new tab), says. Even though protein deficiencies are rare in western countries, paying attention to your protein intake is of extra importance for some, including athletes, the elderly, those going through pregnancy, or those in a calorie deficit."
However, this is an initial starting point. Much like everything when it comes to weight loss, it's based on individual body type, lifestyle, and other factors. So, consider finding your requirement through a protein calculator (opens in new tab), or an overall lifestyle app such as Lifesum.
Why is protein good for weight loss?
1. Protein nourishes the muscles
When it comes to exercise, too many of us focus on what we can lose instead of what we can gain. This is the case with weight loss, as building and growing muscle via strength training, increasing how often you do cardio, and eating enough protein is just as necessary as losing fat is for longer-term, healthy weight loss.
"A sufficient protein intake is important as it plays a significant role in nourishing and preventing muscles from breaking down," confirms Svanfeldt. This is something you actively want to prevent, studies in affiliation with the Karolinska Institutet (opens in new tab) and the Pennington Biological Research Center (opens in new tab) warn, as having more muscle improves the speed of your metabolic rate. This controls how many calories you burn at rest while doing activities like sitting down, eating, and breathing. So, along with other health benefits like better quality sleep and having more energy throughout the day, a high metabolic rate will increase the number of calories you burn overall, helping you to maintain that all-important calorie deficit.
2. Protein helps us stay full
"Eating balanced meals rich in protein, fiber, and healthy, unsaturated fats will help us to stay fuller for longer," says nutritionist Svanfeldt, pointing to several studies - including those by Jeju National University Hospital (opens in new tab) and the University of Missouri (opens in new tab) - that show protein to be the most filling macronutrient alongside fiber.
Snacking throughout the day can easily push you out of the deficit so it's important to prioritize high-protein foods that'll keep you full between your meals and your choice of foods to snack on when dieting.
3. Protein helps reduce cravings
Similarly, Svanfeldt explains, "by ensuring that you eat balanced meals throughout the day, you can reduce the risk of cravings, which helps you stay within your calorie requirements."
High protein foods for weight loss
- Fish: Half a fillet of salmon (124g) can offer 30g of protein.
- Cottage cheese: One cup (226g) of cottage cheese provides 28g of protein.
- Chicken: Half a chicken breast (around 86g) offers 26.7g of protein.
- Lean beef: 24.6g of protein per three-ounce (87g) of lean beef.
- Greek yogurt: 20g of protein per one seven-ounce (200g) of yogurt.
- Edamame beans: 18g of protein per one cup (155g) of edamame beans.
- Protein shakes: The best protein shake for losing weight contains anywhere between 20g to 15g of protein per serving, available in a range of flavors.
- Black beans: 15g of protein per one cup (172g) of boiled, unsalted beans.
- Corn: 15g of protein per one cup (172g) of raw yellow corn.
- Lentils: 9g of protein per half cup (100g) of cooked lentils.
- Quinoa: 8g of protein per one cup (185g) of cooked quinoa.
- Peanuts: 7.3g of protein per ounce (28.3g) of peanuts.
- Eggs: One medium egg can provide 5.3g of protein.
- Spinach: One cup (128g) of spinach contains 5g of protein.
A digital health journalist with over five years experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.
She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness. Everything from the best protein powder to sleep technology, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.
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