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What are the benefits of a high-protein diet?

I recommend a high protein diet for several reasons:

1: Protein is muscle-sparing. I.E. it helps to prevent loss of muscle when in a caloric deficit. 

Protein is muscle-sparing and helps to achieve the “toned” look as opposed to the skinny look that people often experience when losing weight. If you are in a caloric deficit then keeping the protein as high possible can help to prevent too much muscle being lost.

If you’ve ever seen the end-result of somebody who has lost a substantial amount of weight by cutting calories alone without also focusing on macros (especially protein) and not incorporating resistance training (Slimming World, for example) you will know that these methods lead very different results. Basically, you look good in clothing but not in swimwear / naked.

This is one of the reasons that we get clients who have had some weight loss success with SW but then want to tone up. It’s a lot easier to do it from the outset than trying to play catch-up once you’ve lost that amount of muscle.

2: Protein is satiating. I.E. it keeps you fuller for longer than, for example, sugar.

If you’ve ever had a meal with lots of lean meat, fish or chicken, you’ll know how filling it is. It takes longer to digest, too, which means that you can maintain a decent caloric deficit, without being hungry.

3: Protein has a greater thermic effect than carbs or fats (AKA Specific Dynamic Action).

“The thermic effect of food is the energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients. Its magnitude depends on the composition of the food consumed”.

  • Protein: 20 to 35% of the energy consumed
  • Carbohydrates: 5 to 15% of the energy consumed
  • Fats: at most 5 to 15 % of the energy consumed

For every 500 calories of protein consumed, up to 35% is used in digestion – this equates to 175 calories. This means that by eating a high protein diet you can feel fuller, look better and create a bigger caloric deficit than you would if you were eating a high carb or high fat diet.

This is why someone who eats 1500 calories with this nutrition plan will look a lot more toned and lose more weight than if they ate 1500 calories on a Slimming World plan. They feel fuller, create a bigger “hole” in their calories and build/retain more muscle mass.

Here’s an example of two theoretical 2000 calorie diets that further demonstrate the point.

The first one has an intake of 200g protein per day, which (at 30%) gives a 240 cal “bonus” due to the thermogenic effect of the protein.

The second has an intake of 50g protein per day, which gives only an 60 calorie “bonus” per day.

Example 1

2000 cals / 200g protein

Minus a Thermogenic “bonus” of 30% of 800 cals of protein (240 cals)

x7 = 1680 “free” calories a week

Example 2

2000 cals / 50g protein

Minus a Thermogenic “bonus” of 30% of 200 cals protein (60 cals)

x7 = 420 “free” calories a week

This is just one of the reasons why clients who make exceptional progress always hit really high levels of protein. They get the equivalent of an extra days’ progress per week!

4: Protein builds muscle, which means more lean mass.

A decent amount of lean mass combined with low body fat creates the toned look that many people are aiming for. Also, more lean mass needs just a little more energy to sustain it so, once you’ve built that muscle, you can eat more calories!

So, whilst in a caloric deficit, in order to encourage your body to lose fat, rather than muscle, it’s important to keep the protein levels high! Depending on your goal, this could be anywhere between 100-300g a day. A ball park figure 150-200g+ (men) / 100-150g+ (women). The rest of your macros should be split between carbs (fibrous veg, fruit, oats, brown rice etc) and healthy fats (salmon and other oily fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs etc). This will help you to get great results and improve your health, without getting hungry!

Summary

Protein can help you:

  • Lose more body fat
  • Feel fuller
  • Prevent hunger
  • Look more toned
  • Get stronger
  • Gain muscle
  • Eat more food

In conclusion,  you will lose more body fat, gain more muscle and feel less hungry following a nutrition plan with lots of protein than you will focusing only on calories!

Basically, 1500 calories of chicken, prawns, eggs and lots of fruit and veg is a completely different proposition to 1500 calories of bread, pasta, Special K and Haribo!

Protein keeps you fuller for longer so it’s much easier manager in a caloric deficit! Moreover, protein helps with building and retaining muscle, so it’s a completely different look. That’s one of the reasons why losing three stone with Reach gives you a completely different result, compared to losing three stone with Slimming World.