Protein is important for weight loss because it improves satiety, the ”full” or “satisfied” feeling you experience while ingesting a meal that triggers you to stop eating.
Quick side note: I’ve got a podcast episode on this information as well if you prefer to listen instead.
A common misconception is that protein will make you gain weight. While this does have some truth to it, it typically doesn’t lead to fat gain unless you eat it in excess.
So, how do you know how much protein your body needs?
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 0.8 to 2.0 g/kg/ per day of protein, depending on your level of physical activity, sex and age.
Let’s calculate your personal intake recommendation.
- Your weight __________
- Divide that number by 2.2 _________ (This is your weight in kilograms.)
- Next, multiply this by 0.8 ________
- Equals your goal for daily protein intake __________
- If you weigh 200lbs
- 200 divided by 2.2 is 90.9
- 90.9 multiplied by 0.8 equals about 73.
- So, your daily protein goal will be 73 grams.
If it’s easier: you can use the USDA Protein Intake Calculator which will base your results on your weight and activity level.
*It’s important to note that there are special situations where protein intake may be limited even further, such as kidney disease, so be sure to check with your doctor.
How does protein work in the body?
Proteins break down into amino acids and are used by our bodies as building blocks for bone, muscle, skin, brain tissue, and parts of our DNA.
In times of high energy demand, those amino acids can be used as energy by being converted to glucose.
However, when you overeat protein, the amino acids can be converted to glucose and stored as fat once your energy stores are full. This is especially true if you have a sedentary job and don’t move much during the day.
On the other hand, too little protein can lead to disease processes so we need balance.
Plant-based protein is best.
Quinoa is an example of a plant-based protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids, including the ones that our body cannot make on its own.
- It is a seed so it is also packed with healthy fats.
- It is rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate and magnesium.
- It is quick to make, only taking about 15 minutes.
- There are over 120 varieties of quinoa: white, red, and other colored options. They are all nutritious.
Nuts are another viable option as they are high in protein and packed with healthy fats, all leading to increased satiety.
Other forms of protein are:
- Fish, which can be dense in healthy fats such as DHA and EPA.
- Land meats such as chicken, turkey, beef, and pork
- Animal products, such as eggs, cheese and milk
I’ve created a cheat sheet below for you to use as a reference.
Track your protein intake for 3 days. Use the guidelines in the chart and formula provided to see if you are meeting your goal, under or over, then adjust as needed for a healthy weight!
Till next time, stay healthy.
Dr. Kristine LaRocca
Disclaimer: Although I am a medical doctor, I am not YOUR doctor. So the things I teach are not to be used as medical advice. You should consult your physician to discuss what is best for you personally.
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