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Protein and Weight Loss: What Does the Research Say?

Can protein really help us achieve healthy weight loss - and weight maintenance?

This is an important question researchers have been studying for years. Evidence is accumulating that the right amount of protein, at the right time, as part of a balanced overall approach, can indeed help us in our quest for healthy weight control.

In short, protein can help us burn more calories, feel more full, smooth out our blood sugar, preserve our muscles, and feel more awake - for a start! Higher protein diets are also associated with long-term success. A look at how protein works:

1. Raises Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, also called REE/Resting Energy Expenditure - your calorie cost of living.) You can burn more calories even when you are not exercising, simply by increasing the ratio of protein to carbohydrate in your diet. Research has shown that higher protein diets can help burn off 350 extra calories per day. That is almost like adding a 4 or 5 mile walk in terms of calorie burning!

2. Improves Satiety/Fullness/Satisfaction. Protein helps you feel more full on fewer calories, so it is easier to stay on a lower calorie diet. Protein can prevent the fatigue, and sense of hypoglycemia that people can feel on higher glycemic diets. The Standard American Diet (sometimes called the SAD diet!) is only about 12-15% protein on average. Try raising your protein percentage to 20-35% and you will have improved fullness hormone levels, and feel more satisfied.

3. Improves Blood Glucose (blood sugar) after meals. A blood sugar spike after a meal often leads to a crash later - and that not only feels awful, it can create serious health problems. New research shows that starting a meal with protein - and balancing your carbohydrates with protein - can improve your blood sugar swings, help your glucose be more stable, and can improve your insulin response as well! The effect is strongest when you START A MEAL WITH PROTEIN. Protein has the functional effect of lowering the glycemic index. The A.U.C. (Area Under the Curve) of the post-prandial (after meal) blood sugar stays low and smooth if you start a meal with protein.

4. Preserves Muscle during weight loss - AND helps you build muscle more effectively during/after workouts, compared to a higher carb, lower protein diet. In other words, protein helps you create and keep your healthy muscle during weight loss (which maintains strength, metabolism, bone strength, coordination, may prevent falls, helps smooth the appearance of cellulite, etc.)

5. Improves mental alertness and sustained cognitive performance. Many of us think that a sugary treat will help us wake up in the afternoon, but new research shows the opposite is true. Carb-heavy snacks can leave us feeling drowsy and sluggish, while protein-filled snacks give us a mental energy boost with staying power. Wake up in the afternoon with a PROTEIN snack.

6. Facilitates healing after surgical procedures. After surgery, our protein needs increase, often by 20%, and we will heal more quickly if we make sure our protein intake is adequate.

7. Improves long term weight loss success and maintenance. Now that you know the multiple benefits of protein, you probably will not be surprised to hear that higher protein diets are associated with better success rates in research studies in helping keep the weight off!

If you are wondering how to make sure you have the right amount of protein in your diet, balanced with other healthy nutritional components, we can help! We offer 1:1 individual diet and lifestyle analysis and counseling, and can address a variety of medical and nutritional needs. Our team includes our medical weight loss specialists, and nutritionists who have years of experience helping people achieve a healthy weight, through a supportive and comprehensive approach. We help people at all stages of life, to preserve and restore health, including those who are currently healthy, and those with complex needs. Read more about our program here: healthyweightcenter.com Call any time for more information, or personal assistance: (603) 379-6500.

If you would like some simple, convenient, and tasty protein supplies, we have selected some items here at seacoastnutrition.com




Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance JAMA. 2012;307(24):2627-2634. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6607. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1199154

N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 25;363(22):2102-13. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1007137. Diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index for weight-loss maintenance. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21105792

The Effects of Increased Protein Intake on Fullness: A Meta-Analysis and Its Limitations Dhillon, Jaapna et al. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(16)00042-3/abstract

Ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-h satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high-protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83:8994. [PubMed] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16400055 Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jan;83(1):89-94.

Sex differences in energy homeostatis following a diet relatively high in protein exchanged with carbohydrate, assessed in a respiration chamber in humans. Physiol Behav. 2009 Jun 22;97(3-4):414-9. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.03.010. Epub 2009 Mar 21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19318111

The Influence of Higher Protein Intake and Greater Eating Frequency on Appetite Control in Overweight and Obese Men Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Sep; 18(9): 17251732. Published online 2010 Mar 25. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.45 PMCID: PMC4034047 NIHMSID: NIHMS574393 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034047/

Food Order Has a Significant Impact on Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels Diabetes Care July 2015 vol. 38no. 7 e98-e99 http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/38/7/e98.full

Whey protein rich in α-lactalbumin increases the ratio of plasma tryptophan to the sum of the other large neutral amino acids and improves cognitive performance in stress-vulnerable subjects Am J Clin Nutr June 2002 vol. 75 no. 6 1051-1056 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/75/6/1051.full

American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy Nutritional Support and the Surgical Patient http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/474066_10

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