Are you curious about protein? While it seems to be the highlight of every dietary plan these days, you may need some clarification on the details – such as exactly what it does for your body and how much of it you actually need for weight loss?
Plus, what are the best high protein foods, and how do meal replacement shakes fit into the equation? Finally, what should you look for in the best protein shakes?
Protein is a word that’s constantly thrown around these days, as if it’s the most familiar thing in the world, but do you really know what it is, and how it benefits you? We’re going to start there!
What is Protein?
Your body literally depends on protein to function. In fact, without it, you couldn’t survive! It’s nicknamed “the building block of life,” providing structural support for every cell in your body. Think about that… every cell! And the human body contains about 37.2 trillion cells.
At least 10,000 different proteins exist within you and are responsible for powering your daily functions. You can find protein in pretty much every body part and tissue, including in your muscles, bones, skin and hair. (1)
Protein is made from basic building blocks called amino acids, which we get in two different ways. Some of them our bodies can make themselves, but others (called the nine essential amino acids) named histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, must come from foods, since your body cannot produce them.
The bottom line is, you NEED to get these amino acids in your diet, and we’ll show you how, but first let’s look at the major functions of protein…
Major Roles of Protein in the Body
Your body depends on protein to fulfill a number of vital functions including: (2)
- Hormone regulation
- Transmitting signals from one organ to another
- Supporting proper immune functioning
- Helping repair cells and make new ones
- Protecting you from sickness/bacteria
- Promoting growth and development in children and pregnant women
How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?
Despite wide-reaching claims that everyone needs to constantly be upping their protein intake, that’s not entirely true (not for everyone that is). Although some people can benefit from more protein each day (such as if you’re trying to lose weight or have a heavy exercise schedule), others should keep things balanced.
If your main concern is simply to live a healthy lifestyle, eat a clean diet and maintain a healthy weight, you should make it a goal to get 10 – 35% of your daily total calorie amount from protein food sources. To be more specific, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for healthy adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight.
To break it down further and calculate the exact amount you need:
Multiply your body weight (in pounds) by 0.36 to get the amount of protein in grams that you should aim to eat each day.
If you’re 130 lbs., that’s 46.8 grams per day, and if you’re 200 lbs., that’s 72g per day.
Stay tuned for the daily protein recommendations for weight loss, after we talk about high protein foods…
Best Food Sources of Protein
To make things a bit easier, the USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov site gives daily protein recommendations based on age and portion sizes. For instance, a woman between 31-50 years old should have 5 ounces of protein daily.
So, how many ounces are in the foods you typically eat? Here are some of the best high protein foods, along with specific examples in ounces: (3)
Meat (beef, pork, ham, etc.)
1 small, lean hamburger is 2-3 ounces
Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.)
1 small chicken breast is about 3 ounces
Seafood (fish and shellfish)
1 salmon steak is 4-6 ounces
3 egg yolks is 1 ounce
3 egg whites is 2 ounces
Nuts/Nut Butters and Seeds
1 tbsp of nut butter or nuts is 1 ounce
Beans and Peas
1 cup lentil, split pea or bean soup is 2 ounces
¼ cup of cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto or white) is 1 ounce
Soy Products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers)
1 soy patty is 2 ounces
2 tablespoons hummus is 1 ounce
Dairy is also an important source of protein, but there are different recommended guidelines for this food group on ChooseMyPlate.gov. The site provides recommended dairy amounts by the cup serving size for individual age and sex groups.
For quick reference, these food sources also provide good protein…
Dairy Products (including milk, yogurt, cheese, milk-based desserts and soy milk)
Some examples include Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheeses and ice cream
Best Protein and Weight Loss
Now, to address one of your most burning questions: Can protein actually help you with your weight loss goals? Yes! As it turns out, all of the dietary advice that upping your protein intake can be beneficial for weight loss and weight management is correct, and here’s why…
Protein can assist with your weight management efforts by: (4)
Increasing satiety hormones – When you eat more protein than fat and carbs, it increases levels of satiety (or appetite-reducing) hormones (GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin), while reducing significant levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin. This magic combo leads to a huge drop in hunger and can help you lose weight by eating fewer calories.
Helping you burn more calories – A higher protein intake boosts your body’s metabolism naturally, allowing you to burn more calories throughout your day… even at rest and while you sleep! Studies show that adding more protein into your diet can potentially increase the number of calories you burn by 80 to 100 per day!
Reducing appetite – If you’re watching your daily calorie count, adding more protein into your diet can make the task much easier. Basically, since protein is extremely satiating and typically lower in calories, it can naturally help you eat less calories overall (as confirmed by several studies).
Cutting cravings – While on the topic of satiety, protein not only fills you up, but it also reduces the urge to splurge on unhealthy foods (especially at night when your self-control takes a dip). One study showed that eating protein as 25% of calories reduced obsessive thoughts of food by 60% and the desire to snack at night by half! A high protein breakfast is also really important for daytime cravings control (meal replacement shakes are a great breakfast idea… more on that later!)
Additional Ways The Best Protein Can Help You Lose Weight
Along with increasing your satiety and reducing cravings, it’s been shown that protein can also help reduce the number on the scale by:
Reducing total fat & belly fat – A number of studies have shown that when additional protein is added into a diet (without restricting calories, portions, fat, or carbs) people still lose weight. In one study, participants lost about 11 pounds in 12 weeks. It’s also been shown that a higher protein diet can lead to reduced belly fat, a harmful fat that surrounds the organs and has even been linked to some diseases.
Preventing regain – A modestly higher protein diet is also a great weight management tool that you can use for the long-term, helping prevent weight regain. One study showed that a modest increase in dietary protein (from only 15% to 18% of total calories) reduced weight gain after weight loss by 50%!
Reducing muscle loss – When you lose weight, you can lose muscle as well, but eating sufficient protein (along with strength training) can reduce this unwanted effect. Both of these things can also help keep your metabolism going strong and prevent slowdown – which can naturally happen as a result of weight loss.
How Much Protein to Eat for Weight Loss
Whereas the general dietary guidelines for protein intake is about 10 – 35% of your daily total calorie amount, you want to be on the higher end for weight loss. If you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle, studies show that getting about 30% of your calories from protein is an effective amount. (4)
To find the exact number for you, multiply your daily calorie goal by 0.075.
Calorie Goal: 2,000 calories per day
Multiply 2,000 by 0.075, which equals 150g of protein.
Get Your Daily Protein with Meal Replacement Shakes
One of the best ways to up your protein intake in a convenient, safe and effective way is with meal replacement shakes… And one of our main goals on DietShake-Reviews.com is to help guide you to the best protein powder for you.
The best meal replacement shakes are specially formulated with all the nutrients you need (including high quality protein, vitamins, minerals and more) to replace a healthy meal. They’re great for breakfast, on-the-go, or anytime you need a quick meal. They can also be used as pre- and post-workout shakes.
When looking for a meal replacement shake, make sure you choose one with 15-20g of protein (avoid soy due to potential health issues), that’s low in sugar and has no artificial or chemical ingredients. It should also have good fiber and a wide array of vitamins, minerals and even superfoods.
Side Effects of Too Much Protein
Even though protein is absolutely essential to vital functions in your body, and increasing your intake can help with weight loss, weight management and muscle-toning, you can still have too much of a good thing. Though most people can safely increase the amount of protein they eat, some high protein diets, such as the Carnivore Diet, Paleo, Atkins and Keto, may lead people to consume too muchprotein, especially if they abuse the rules of that diet. This can lead to high protein side effects…
So, how much is too much? Research shows that you should stay at or below 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. But if you’re an athlete, you can go up to 3.5g per kilogram safely. (5)
You can use this handy calculator tool to turn find out what your weight is in kilograms, and from there do the math…
If you’re 150 pounds, that’s 68 kilograms (and 68 times 2 is 136), so 136g of protein per day would be your upper limit.
Symptoms of Protein Overconsumption
How do you know if you’ve had too much protein? Symptoms of overconsumption could include:
- GI discomfort and indigestion
Chronic overconsumption of protein for an extensive time period has serious risks including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver and kidney problems
- Blood vessel disorders
In conclusion, protein is absolutely essential for proper bodily functions and extremely helpful for maintaining a slim, fit, and healthy figure, but you also shouldn’t abuse it. Including the right amounts of the best protein sources into a balanced diet is the key to continued wellness.
As mentioned, drinking meal replacement shakes is a great way to meet your daily protein needs – and ensure you stay within a healthy range for your weight and goals. Check out the meal replacement shake reviews on this site for in-depth info on how to find the best protein shake for you!