Understanding Protein's Role In Fat Burning And Weight Loss

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/30/2023

If understanding protein’s role in weight loss is not that clear to you, let me explain about it here so you know how important it is in your diet program. Read on to find out more.

RELATED: Can Too Much Protein Make You Fat

In this article:

  1. The Importance of Protein in a Diet Plan
  2. What Does Protein Do to the Body?
  3. How Does Protein Help You Lose Weight?
  4. Protein-Rich Foods to Try
  5. Eat Protein in Moderation
  6. Protein Is Great for Your Workout Program 

Understanding Protein in Weight Loss: What to Know

The Importance of Protein in a Diet Plan

There are so many questions about protein, especially about its importance in weight loss. If you really want to start understanding protein and its role in weight loss, I’ll discuss it here. 

A high-protein diet is popular among people who want to shed some weight. But when a person eats protein for weight loss, they have to check the fat content as well. Some high-protein foods are also high in fat, and these types of protein foods do not help burn fat. 

What Does Protein Do to the Body?

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Before we begin learning about protein and its role in weight loss, let's first go back to the basics, which is knowing the nutrient’s primary functions in the body. Protein is essential for maintaining good health. Essential amino acids compose the protein structure that forms long chains, and protein does much of its work in the cells. Several functions of the nutrient include the following:

  • Gives energy
  • Stores and transports nutrients
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Balances fluid
  • Keeps the right pH levels
  • Provides body structures, like nails, hair, and skin
  • Serves as a messenger
  • Causes biochemical reactions
  • Promotes growth and maintenance of tissues (repairs and builds tissues)
  • Contributes to making hormones, enzymes, and other body chemicals

Dietary protein is a macronutrient, along with carbs and fat. Your body does not keep protein, though, which means it has no reservoir when it’s time to use a new supply. This is the reason you need to consume the right amounts of complete protein every day, so you can keep a normal supply of it in your body.

How Does Protein Help You Lose Weight?

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In understanding protein for weight loss purposes, there are a few benefits of the nutrient worth highlighting. I want to discuss each of them briefly so you have a better idea of how this works to support fat burning.

1. Aids in Preventing Metabolic Slowdown and Muscle Loss

When you lose weight, you don't only lose fat; your muscle mass tends to reduce also, which is not something you want. Losing weight can also decrease your metabolic rate, which means you might burn fewer calories than before. To avoid these situations, you need protein to keep your metabolic rate high and prevent loss of muscle mass as you lose weight.

When you do strength training, you need protein to build muscles while also keeping your metabolic rate at an ideal level. Combining training and eating the right amounts of protein are important in this aspect. Without the nutrient, you may end up looking “skinny fat” instead of lean and fit.

2. Helps Cut Cravings

In understanding protein’s role in weight loss, you need to know that food craving is a major factor that can break your diet plan. Late-night snacking can be hard to resist. This is where protein comes in. It can significantly stop you from late-night snacking and craving your favorite unhealthy foods, as it makes you feel full longer. 

3. Burns Calories Upon Its Digestion and Metabolization

When your body starts to digest and metabolize protein, it requires calories to burn, making it beneficial for weight loss. It's a basic body process that can significantly aid in your weight loss journey. 

RELATED: How To Tell If You Are Consuming Too Much Protein On Keto

Protein-Rich Foods to Try

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The best proteins come from lean meat, fish, beans, and poultry. Beans, when eaten in moderation, are great sources of protein. But since they are also high in carbohydrates, they eventually turn into sugar and often become stored in the body as fat.

Fish is the best source of protein for a weight loss diet. Eating fish and seafood with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits can really help you achieve your weight goal fast. Lean meat with vegetables also works to burn fat in the body. When you eat a piece of steak, don't load up on potatoes and rice. Instead, eat your meat with salad or other vegetables to help speed up the fat-burning process. Protein often makes you feel fuller, so this also helps you cut down on the amount of food you eat.

Yogurt and cheese are good sources of protein, too, but you have to take them in moderation. You can eat some as a snack or late-night treat, but be sure to watch your portions. Whole grains have little protein in them and plenty of carbohydrates that turn into sugar, which often turn into fat. Because of this, you have to limit the amount of bread and pasta you eat — even if they are made of whole wheat. It’s best to eliminate refined sugar from your diet completely.

Eggs are a good source of protein, but they are high in fat. Having them a few times a week for breakfast with some fruits or vegetables should be adequate. Fish is still one of the best sources of fat-burning protein, so they can be your main daily source of the nutrient.

Eat Protein in Moderation

To avoid making your liver work overtime, don’t eat too much protein. You can also balance your protein consumption with plenty of vegetables or by getting plant-based proteins. Vegetables like kale have 16% protein and plenty of vitamins and minerals, so don’t forget to add them to your diet.

Protein Is Great for Your Workout Program 

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Part of understanding protein and its role in weight loss is to remember to exercise, too! Walking, swimming, biking, or going to the gym with proper protein intake really helps burn fat. No matter how you look at it, people following a workout program need protein to support their training. When you exercise, your muscle fibers tear and break, and you need the nutrients to repair them. If your training requires an everyday workout, you also need to supply your body with enough of the protein it needs for physical activity. It's also important to consume protein after your exercise to help recover from muscle damage faster.  

Understanding protein and its role in weight loss requires learning its basic functions, health benefits, and the good protein sources so you have a better direction for your fat loss journey. There are many different considerations when using protein for weight loss, though. Just remember the tips above so you can get your proteins right. Good luck!

How much protein are you consuming every day? Did you get its maximum benefits in terms of losing weight? Share your experience in the comments section below!

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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