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Protein is the Solution to Belly Fat
If you want to know how to lose belly fat and keep muscle mass, look no farther than protein. In study after study, the benefits of consuming protein are clear. However, this is not to be confused with consuming extreme or high levels of protein. Ideally, you want roughly 30% of your calories to come from protein. Otherwise, you risk becoming malnourished and developing health problems.
Here’s 5 scientifically backed reasons why protein helps burn fat and retain muscle mass:
Suppresses Appetite and Hunger
Protein is a natural appetite suppressant. Eating protein simply makes you feel satiated faster than fats or carbs. Studies reveal that consuming protein reduces levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone that stimulates appetite. In addition, protein boosts levels of peptide YY that helps you feel full faster and stop eating and consuming calories.
The effects of protein on appetite suppression are well documented. One study showed that participants eating a high protein diet naturally consumed over 400 fewer calories. There were no calorie restrictions or exercise requirements.
To naturally suppress appetite and lower caloric intake without starving yourself, simply switch out carbs and fats for protein. Here is a list of foods high in protein that you can substitute for fats and carbs:
- Chicken or Turkey Breast
- Fish (any)
- Lean Ground Beef
Naturally Reduces Cravings to Lower Caloric Intake
When your metabolic hormones are functioning normally, they signal the brain when it needs to eat. Unfortunately, as we age, these metabolic hormones become unbalanced and don’t work right. Leptin, specifically, is the metabolic hormone responsible for cravings.
Cravings aren’t like healthy, normal hunger pangs. They have nothing to do with your body’s need for sustenance. Instead, they typically have more to do with dopamine and emotional needs than any biological one.
Unfortunately, this means they are very difficult to resist, especially late at night. Luckily, protein also helps with cravings. One study revealed that simply increasing protein intake to 25% of calories ingested reduced cravings by 60%. In another study, simply eating a breakfast high in protein dramatically lowers urge for late night cravings.
Protein Builds Muscle to Increase Caloric Burn Rate
Protein not only helps naturally lower caloric consumptions, it also helps burn more calories as well. Protein helps build muscle mass. Muscle cells burns significantly more calories at rest than fat cells. The greater your muscle mass, the faster you burn fat and calories.
This is precisely why anaerobic exercise is more beneficial to weight loss than aerobic exercise. Specifically, you want to incorporate a modest weight lifting regimen into your weekly schedule.
Don’t worry, working out a few times a week with dumbbells for 20-30 minutes is sufficient. Even jumping rope is another anaerobic exercise that builds muscles and increases caloric burn rate at rest. The key is repetitive exercises that help build muscle mass.
Consuming Protein Boosts Metabolism Naturally
Your metabolism temporarily rises whenever we consume anything and is known as the thermic effect of food. This short-lived boost in metabolism occurs because your body needs to digest what you just consumed and that requires energy.
The great news: Not all foods have the same thermic effect. Compared to fats or carbs, eating protein boosts your metabolism by more than double. So how many calories can you burn when ingesting protein? According to one study, eating a high protein diet burned over 250 more calories per day compared to a low protein diet.
To get the metabolism boost from eating protein, just consciously be sure to include a good-sized portion with every meal. Yogurt in the morning maybe. Have a chicken breast sandwich (on whole grain bread) for lunch. Then maybe some fish and sides of rice and lentils for dinner. Anything you can do to naturally curb appetite and burn more calories helps you eliminate fat much, much faster.
Protein Helps Prevent Adding Weight Back On
One of the most disheartening things to endure is losing weight only to regain it back. Keeping protein intake levels elevated helps avoid this problem. In a recent study, even getting around 20% of total calories reduces the risk of gaining weight back by 50%. Imagine how much lower the risk of weight regain would be if protein accounted for 30% of total calories?
So if you want to know how to lose belly fat and keep muscle without regaining it, eat more protein!
How to Lose Belly Fat and Keep Muscle Mass: Recap
In another recent study, participants lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks by getting 30% of total calories from protein. There were no calorie restrictions—they just ate protein and didn’t alter physical activity levels.
Protein shreds fat by helping you lower caloric intake and burn more calories. It’s as simple as that. The specific mechanisms are more complicated but by naturally suppressing appetite, curbing cravings, and boosting metabolism, protein is the super food of weight loss.
Adding in anaerobic exercise 3 or more times a week and focusing on muscle building really increases the fat burning significantly. However, any significant and sustained increase in activity levels burns more calories and shreds fat faster as well. But, since muscle cells burn more calories at rest than fat cells, muscle building is highly recommended.
Even people with a condition known as leptin resistance will shed fat by consuming 30% of their calories from protein. Leptin is a hormone that controls cravings and appetite. It is supposed to tell the brain when you need to eat and when you are satiated and can stop eating. Leptin resistance is a condition that prevents the brain from detecting leptin. When the brain can’t detect leptin, it thinks fat stores are all gone and you need to eat more.
Protein solves everything, even if you have leptin resistance. Your caloric intake naturally decreases while the rate of caloric burn increases. And the best part is: You don’t need to starve yourself to burn fat and finally reach and maintain your target weight! So if you want to know how to lose belly fat and keep muscle, eat more protein.
Mike Dorfman is BS in Biochemistry from the University of Colorado. Mike’s has worked as a personal trainer for Gold’s Gym and helped many clients achieve their weight-loss and fitness goals.
To health first, weight-loss second. Mike and Tetrogen are here to help you make the transition to the healthier, happier, and thinner you!