Protein for Weight Loss

High Protein Food Lists, Diet Tips, and Recipes

Some people use lean protein for weight loss. Why? Because lean protein foods help you to feel full longer and help you to feel more satisfied. The result is that many eat less during the day and slim down faster.

In addition, if you participate in a strength training program, lean protein helps you build and maintain muscle. Building more muscle will help the body become more efficient at using and burning calories and will also improve your energy levels. Increasing your energy will make moving easier. And when activity is easier, you're likely to do more of it—and burn more calories in the process.

These tips, protein food lists, and recipes will help you to eat the right amount and right type of protein for weight loss. Understanding which types of proteins are quality sources and how to balance your meals with nutrient-dense carbohydrates and healthy fats can help you reach your health goals.

Why Protein for Weight Loss?

protein for weight loss
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Protein is an important macronutrient for weight loss, but like anything else, the types you eat and how much you eat plays a role in your overall health. Understanding more about protein can help you stick to your health goals and lose weight (if that's one of your goals).

First, it's important to understand that eating protein is not a magic bullet. You won't magically lose weight simply by adding protein-rich foods to your plate. But this macronutrient is essential for health.

Protein is found in all cells and is required for growth and development as well as repairing and making new cells. Adequate amounts of protein are important for immunity and are the building blocks of hair, skin, and nails. In addition, a meal plan that contains adequate amounts of protein helps to maintain and build lean body mass and keep you full.

Specifically:

  • Protein-rich foods require more calories to digest
  • Protein foods help you to feel full and satisfied at meal-time
  • Protein helps you to maintain muscle mass on your body
  • Protein helps you to build stronger muscles if you participate in a strength training program

Keep in mind, however, that high-protein diets don't work for everyone. The amount of protein that you need will depend on your height, weight, and activity level. In addition, there are some conditions, such as kidney disease, where a high protein diet is contraindicated. Check to make sure it's right for you before you begin your weight loss journey.

How Much Protein for Weight Loss?

You've probably noticed more protein-rich foods at the grocery store. It seems that food manufacturers are adding it to everything: breakfast cereal, snack bars, beverages, even frozen desserts! But more protein is not always better, even if you are using a high-protein diet for weight loss.

Make sure you eat the right amount of protein each day to maximize your weight loss potential. Different organizations use different guidelines to determine your protein needs.

The USDA recommends that 10 to 30 percent of your daily calories come from protein.

There are ways to personalize the recommendation. An average person needs 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight (or 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight). Athletes and those who exercise more than 10 to 12 hours per week need up to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight (1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight).

Personalizing protein needs will help you reach your adequate intake for daily functioning as well as help you tailor your food intake to assure you are reaching your goals.

High Protein Foods List

Once you've decided to eat a higher-protein diet, you will want to make sure you have protein-rich foods in your refrigerator and pantry. Planning meals and snacks can help you be successful and reduce decisions throughout the day.

Sources of protein include animal products such as dairy products, chicken breast, turkey, beef, eggs, and fish like salmon and tuna. But, plant-based foods, such as legumes, (red beans and nuts), peas, whole grains, and spinach are other types of delicious and nutritious sources of protein.

Take a protein foods list with you to the grocery store and stock up. You'll find nutritious choices in almost every section of the market.

Protein Shakes for Weight Loss

Many studies have shown that using meal replacements on a calorie-restricted diet can help to improve weight. Meal replacements are a simple way to get in nutrients. But there is some debate that drinking calories (as opposed to eating and chewing) can affect feelings of fullness. Using a quality protein powder in your meal replacement shake may help you to keep full. But not all smoothies are created equal. Those that are made with juice and added sweeteners can be high in sugar and calories.

A great way to stick to your goals is to make your smoothies at home. The most filling and nutritious smoothies are those that contain whole ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, and a liquid such as low-fat milk or a milk alternative.

  • If you follow a recipe, make sure you note the number of servings and consume just one serving at meal time.
  • Measure your ingredients! It's very easy to add too much to the blender and mindlessly increase calories.
  • Be sure to add some healthy fat, but keep your portion in mind. Healthy fats, such as chia, avocado, flaxseed, and nut butters are nutritious, but the calories can add up if you don't measure out your portion.

A meal replacement protein shake can help you jumpstart of maintain weight loss.

Protein Bars for Weight Loss

Not sure which protein bar is best for your weight loss plan? These snack foods and meal replacements always seem like a good idea because the labels often boast nutritional benefits. Not all bars are created equal and some are intended for purposes other than weight loss. Therefore it's always important to read labels

For example, some bars are designed for endurance athletes. So they are packed with energy to fuel a long exercise session. That means they are full of calories. Other bars have a lot of protein, along with a lot of fat and added sugar. Some bars have more calories than a candy bar.

Before you choose a protein bar, turn over the package (skip all of the advertising claims on the front) and look at the Nutrition Facts label. Find a bar with fewer grams of sugar, less fat, and more protein. For example, look for a bar that has at least 3 grams of fiber, more protein than sugar (or less than 10 grams of sugar), and less than 3 grams of saturated fat.

You can also scan the ingredients list. If sugar (and remember that sugar might be listed under many different names) is listed as a primary ingredient, skip it and find another one.

Understanding the different type of bars can help you make your choice. It doesn't matter if you like crunchy bars, chocolatey bars or peanutty bars, you'll find a high protein bar to fit into your plan on this list.

Protein-Rich Snacks

Research has shown that if you have portion-controlled protein snacks ready to go, you may eat less and lose weight faster. Sounds easy, right? But which protein snacks are best? Many protein foods need refrigeration. And some are hard to carry in your purse or your gym bag.

Use either of these guides to find snack-friendly protein for weight loss.

And remember, it doesn't matter what kind of snacks you choose, it's best to prepare them in advance and have them ready to grab when you're hungry. Take one day each week to individually pack single serving containers of each snack so you know exactly how much to consume.

High Protein Meals for Weight Loss

Most of us consume protein at dinner time. A traditional supper usually includes a meat or seafood, some starchy carbs (hello baked potato!) and a few veggies. But it's smart to eat protein for weight loss at every meal. Choose protein-rich grains at breakfast, fuel up with a three bean salad at lunch, and then add a single-serving of healthy fish at dinner time. And you should also experiment with different types of protein—from vegetables, dairy, legumes and more.

Use each of these guides to build healthy, balanced meals that are protein-rich but balanced with healthy fats and smart carbohydrates for energy.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, any smart program to lose weight should encourage healthy eating. That means that you eat a balanced diet full of a wide range of nutritious food. Eating more protein for weight loss can help you to stick to your program, but it won't magically make you slim down.

If you need more help getting enough protein each day, consider speaking with a registered dietitian to develop a comprehensive eating plan. A professional can help you to create a satisfying plan not only for weight loss but also for long-term health and wellness.

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  1. Noakes M, Foster PR, Keogh JB, Clifton PM. Meal replacements are as effective as structured weight-loss diets for treating obesity in adults with features of metabolic syndrome. J Nutr. 2004 Aug;134(8):1894-9. doi:10.1093/jn/134.8.1894