Balance Protein Intake for Better Diet Success
Protein in the diet facilitates weight control by boosting metabolism, increasing feelings of fullness, and preserving lean muscle mass during weight loss. Now that we know that simple carbs, such as sugar, are the true culprits when it comes to heart disease risk—and we know that fat is usually not the problem—it’s time to start focusing on the nutrients that are actually good for us.
While many Americans consume enough protein, experts note that when you eat your protein matters. The typical American diet features lots of protein at dinner time, but relatively little for breakfast. Spreading protein intake out throughout the day can lead to “significant improvements.” That’s according to University of Missouri researchers, who reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that protein represents a useful tool for the management of weight.
The key is to consume enough with each meal, including breakfast. “Although most Americans don’t consume the amount of protein necessary to achieve benefits, such as increased feelings of fullness, the research suggests that individuals only need to add an additional 10-15 grams of high-quality protein, such as eggs, beef, pork or dairy, at breakfast and lunch to achieve the recommended amount,” said researcher, Heather Leidy. Ten grams of protein is about one-third of an ounce—clearly not an unreasonable amount of protein for a given meal.
The quality of protein matters, too. Most vegetable proteins are “incomplete,” meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids our bodies need. Animal products, including eggs, meat and dairy, contain complete protein. There are many amino acids—the building blocks of protein. But only seven are deemed “essential”. Our bodies need them and can’t make them from scratch; they must come from the diet.
While it’s easy to consume the recommended amount of protein for dinner—given our love affair with meat—it may be more challenging to get the right amount at other meals. While eggs are no longer considered a diet don’t (their contribution to cholesterol levels is now thought to be negligible) eating eggs for breakfast every day can get boring. Leidy suggests a practical approach. “Most people eat enough protein in the evening,” she said, in a press release. “Take whatever source of protein you ate for dinner – whether that’s a steak or a pork chop – and eat it for breakfast along with Greek yogurt or include it in a pre-made breakfast casserole with eggs, which can easily get you to 30 grams of protein in the morning.”
H. J. Leidy, P. M. Clifton, A. Astrup, T. P. Wycherley, M. S. Westerterp-Plantenga, N. D. Luscombe-Marsh, S. C. Woods, R. D. Mattes. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084038