1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

How Much Protein Is Best for Weight Loss?

Use easy lean protein recipes to gain lean muscle and lose fat

By

Updated June 13, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

protein sources

Get the right amount of protein to lose weight

Jeffrey Coolidge/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Eating foods with protein may improve both short- and long-term weight loss success. According to new research, dieters who eat more protein were able to increase lean muscle mass, improve their metabolism and decrease body fat. But that leaves many dieters asking, how much protein do I need to lose weight?

Before you stock up on supplements and bars, make sure you know your recommended daily allowance for protein. Then, learn more about how eating different amounts may affect the weight loss process. And finally, check out a few easy lean protein recipes so that you can include this important nutrient at every meal.

Should I Eat More Protein if I'm Dieting?

Some researchers believe that when dieters consume more foods with protein, they see greater weight loss benefits, such as improved body composition and a boost in metabolism. Three recent studies have found that dieters who consumed 25-30% of their calories from lean protein lost more body fat and substantially increased the number of calories that their bodies burned at rest.

In one study of overweight and obese women, researchers evaluated dieters who consumed a high protein (30%), high dairy diet (HPHD) to a lower protein (15%), lower dairy diet (LPLD). The HPHD group lost more body fat and gained more lean muscle mass than the women who consumed the LPLD diet. The LPLD group lost weight, but they also lost more lean muscle mass.

Study authors suggest that this loss of lean muscle may contribute to the long-term weight gain and weight loss plateaus that are a source of frustration for so many dieters. Lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat, even when the body is at rest. When the LPLD group lost lean muscle mass, they may have lost the ability to burn more calories. On the other hand, the improved body composition of the HPHD group may help them burn more calories in the short and long term.

So does that mean more protein is better? Not necessarily. If you eat too many calories, no matter what kind of calories they are, you will gain weight. Even though some studies suggest that weight gain from lean protein is better than weight gain from fat and carbohydrates, if weight loss is your goal, eating the right number of calories is still the key to success.

Should I Take a Protein Supplement?

The short answer is probably not. Most people consume too much of the nutrient already, so adding more in the form of a supplement is not necessary. There are still some people, though, who don't get enough. Should they invest in powders or pills? The answer is still probably not.

Foods with protein are also high in other vitamins and minerals that are essential to your diet. Lean meats, dairy and seafood contain iron, calcium, niacin and thiamin. Protein-rich lentils are a good source of fiber.

Many supplements are expensive and some may contain sugars and other ingredients that you don't need. Why waste the money and consume the extra calories? Try to include at least one lean meat or dairy product in each meal throughout the day and chances are good that you will reach the recommended intake of protein to keep your body lean and healthy.

Cook Lean Protein Recipes

Try to eat some of this important nutrient at every meal. Stock up on lean dairy products, chicken, fish, lean ground turkey, lentils and green leafy vegetables. Use healthy cooking techniques to minimize the amount of added calories. Before you know it, you'll be creating delicious meals that are low in fat but high in the nutrients that you really need.

Sources:

George A. Bray, MD; Steven R. Smith, MD; Lilian de Jonge, PhD; Hui Xie, PhD; Jennifer Rood, PhD; Corby K. Martin, PhD; Marlene Most, PhD; Courtney Brock, MS, RD; Susan Mancuso, BSN, RN; Leanne M. Redman, PhD. " Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition During Overeating." Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(1):47-55.

Russell J de Souza, George A Bray,Vincent J Carey, Kevin D Hall, Meryl S LeBoff, Catherine M Loria, Nancy M Laranjo, Frank M Sacks, Steven R Smith " Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition January 18, 2012.

Elizabeth A Fox, Jennifer L McDaniel, Anthony P Breitbach and Edward P Weiss. " Perceived protein needs and measured protein intake in collegiate male athletes: an observational study." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2011, 8:9 .

Andrea R. Josse, Stephanie A. Atkinson, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Stuart M. Phillips. " Increased Consumption of Dairy Foods and Protein during Diet- and Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Promotes Fat Mass Loss and Lean Mass Gain in Overweight and Obese Premenopausal Women." The Journal of Nutrition July 20, 2011.

Nutrition for Everyone. Protein. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed: April 15, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html

Phillips SM, Zemel MB. " Effect of protein, dairy components and energy balance in optimizing body composition." PubMed.gov 2011;69:97-108.

Lisa A Te Morenga, Megan T Levers, Sheila M Williams, Rachel C Brown and Jim Mann. " Comparison of high protein and high fiber weight-loss diets in women with risk factors for the metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial." Nutrition Journal April 2011.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.