Try a High-Protein Diet to Optimize Body Composition

Try a High-Protein Diet to Optimize Body Composition

It is well known that a high-protein diet can help you lose fat and gain muscle, but it’s always good to be reminded, especially since high-protein eating is one of the easiest ways to sustain fat loss without too much trouble.

High-protein diets improve body composition

First, there’s the direct effect of thermogenesis on weight control. The more protein you eat, the greater the energetic cost necessary to incorporate each amino acid into lean tissue. In simple terms, this means that by eating protein-rich foods, your body burns significantly more calories than if you had eaten the same amount of fat or carbs.

The second benefit of eating high-quality solid protein regularly throughout the day is that you can decrease feelings of hunger. Studies show higher protein diets lead people to naturally eat fewer total calories. The feeling of fullness and satisfaction that protein provides decreases appetite.

The effect doesn’t just take place in your stomach but is greatly influenced by the brain’s response and association to the experience of eating amino acid-rich foods. As soon as you put something in your mouth and swallow it, gut peptides send messages to the brain.

There is evidence that certain foods, carbohydrates in general but especially sugary or salty foods, result in chemical messages to the brain that cause us to eat more and continue the “rewarding” or “pleasurable” experience of food.

By eating a high-protein diet, the opioid and GABA chemical messages are not active. This reduces the hyper-pleasurable response to food that triggers food intake, leading us to overeat.

It’s not that high-protein diets are not pleasurable. They are typically high in tryptophan—the amino acid that is a precursor for serotonin, which makes us feel good. Rather, high-protein diets are not addicting and they don’t cause us to binge or eat excessive amounts in the way that high-carb diets often do.

Finally, hormonal signals relative to the status of energy stores are lowered or elevated by the macronutrient content of food. Carbohydrates will elevate insulin dramatically but won’t raise leptin much. Leptin is the hormone that inhibits hunger and elevates fat burning in the body. It is rather telling that the word “leptin” is Greek for “thin.”

Protein foods tend to raise leptin and decrease ghrelin, which is a hunger-stimulating hormone. They also help with insulin and moderate blood sugar management.

Take Aways

Here are take away points that can help you be successful with a high-protein diet:

  • Plan meals carefully so that you get high-quality protein at every meal and at snacks.
  • Pair protein with slow-digesting carbohydrates, especially green vegetables.
  • Shoot for solid protein at meals and snacks because solid protein has been shown to have a much more satiating effect that liquid protein. Save liquid protein shakes for workouts.
  • If you do take liquid protein before and after training, whey has been shown to blunt hunger more than casein because it is faster digesting, providing a massive influx of amino acid to the blood stream very quickly.


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