Eat high-quality protein at every meal to lose belly fat and improve your health. “High-quality” protein refers to the amino acids concentration in a given food, and it is defined as at least 10 grams of essential amino acids.
A new study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that in a group of young volunteers, the most consistent indicator of leanness was high-quality protein. Specifically, those who ate the 10 gram “threshold” dose of EAAs at every meal had the least belly fat, and the number of times they reached the EAA threshold was also significant.
Researchers think this is because 10 grams of EAAs is the amount known to maximally stimulate protein synthesis, meaning that when you eat this amount at meals throughout the day, you sustain tissue repair.
The benefit is that you will increase your lean mass percentage, which will give you a higher resting energy expenditure. Increasing lean mass is an easy way to increase your total caloric needs.
More muscle is also great for increasing the amount of fat your body burns at rest since the majority of energy used to provide ATP for protein synthesis comes from fat.
Here’s how to put this into practice:
- Animal-derived protein—beef, fish, poultry, milk, and eggs—contains the best quality protein because these foods have more EAAs per gram of protein. You get more bang for your calorie buck by eating these foods.
- Lower quality protein sources are from plants, such as beans, lentils, and some vegetables. This doesn’t make them bad—there are many benefits to these foods, but if you get most of your protein from lower quality sources you have to eat more calories to get the same overall EAA intake.
- This distinction is especially relevant for people who are restricting total energy, or for anyone who is interested in building muscle while losing body fat.