Jun 25th, 2013
Category: Fat Burning
Protein Burns Fat It’s that simple
Hundreds of clients and athletes have asked me about the benefits of a high protein diet. How much protein is too much? Is protein powder really necessary? Can protein really decrease body fat? Does protein increase performance? After countless hours of research, and even more real life results, a high protein diet has proven successful in achieving enhanced performance, fat loss, increased energy, body composition, cognitive function, and many more…
Individuals who engage in a high protein diet decrease body fat and increase lean muscle. One study, performed by the Journal of Nutrition and Research, looked into protein and its effects on thermogenesis. One major result from the study involved the energetic cost of protein. This study showed that higher amounts of protein require elevated energy expenditure in order to incorporate every amino acid into the muscles (i.e. lean tissue). Higher levels of energy expenditure result in increased caloric expenditure. Therefore, eating protein will result in greater amounts of caloric expenditure than carbohydrates and fats.
Protein will not only increase caloric expenditure, which can result in a caloric deficit, but it has been linked to curbed cravings of hunger. Once food enters the mouth, gut peptides immediately send signals of satiation and reward to the brain. Salty, sugary, and enriched carbohydrate foods results in signals of reward and pleasure. These signals have been shown to lead to binge eating and to an increased number of “cheat” meals.
Carbohydrates stimulate the production of the hormone Ghrelin. Ghrelin is elevated both pre and post meals. Ghrelin stimulates feelings of hunger and reward. Ghrelin is a 28 amino-acid that is mainly produced within the stomach lining and by the epsilon cells of the pancreas (1). Research has found that when diets are higher in protein Ghrelin levels are decreased; therefore, individuals who have less Ghrelin will typically have lower levels of body fat. Carbohydrates elevate and create greater insulin sensitivity, which elevates Ghrelin and lowers Leptin. This combination leads to excessive caloric consumption (i.e. over eating) and fat storage.
What is Leptin? Leptin, produced within the adipose tissue, is a hormone stimulated by protein that causes feelings of fullness, curbed food cravings, and a decrease in caloric consumption. It affects energy intake, energy expenditure, appetite control, and the metabolic rate. The metabolic rate, especially the resting metabolic rate (RMR), is essential in terms of fat loss and lean muscle gain. If the RMR is elevated throughout the day, then your body has a higher probability of being anabolic while in a constant state of fat burning.
Simply stated, diets that are high in protein will result in enhanced mood, decreased food cravings, an elevated RMR, increased energy output, lower body fat levels, increased lean muscle levels, and enhanced cognitive function through neurotransmitter production within the brain (i.e. eat meat). On the other hand, diets high in carbohydrates will elevate Ghrelin levels, lead to over eating, excessive fat storage, decreased mood and decreased energy levels.
Where do we go from here? Here is a compilation of successful tips that can change your diet and body composition…
- -Eat protein every meal and snack (whole food source preferable), which leads to higher levels of energy and lower insulin sensitivity (2).
- -Choose low glycemic carbohydrates, preferably legumes (i.e. beans), vegetables, and select sprouted whole grains.
- -Always pair carbohydrates with whole food proteins, fiber, and healthy fats. A combination of low glycemic carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat is the ultimate fat loss cocktail.
- -Eat a macronutrient balanced meal every 1.5 to 2.5 hours to elevate RMR and increase fat burning.
- -Drink liquid protein around workout times or in times of crisis. However, try and eat a well balanced whole food meal, which was just aforementioned, 90 to 120 minutes before working out to increase energy levels and performance.
- -Supplement your diet with BCAA’s, particularly those higher in the amino acid leucine, to curb hunger and provide your body with essential amino acids.
- -Whey protein is the preferable protein powder because it is easily digested into the body’s blood stream. This provides a major dosage of amino acids rather quickly, which can decrease hunger more quickly. However, choose a solid whole-food protein over a liquid protein besides around workout times or for convenience.
Did you know?
Tryptophan, the amino acid found in meat, which we claim makes us tired during Thanksgiving, leads to increased serotonin levels. Mood and energy levels are directly correlated to levels of body fat and exercise. Serotonin is a mood enhancer and if elevated can result in greater energy and feelings of self worth. This leads to greater body composition.
1) Inui A, Asakawa A, Bowers CY, et al. Ghrelin, appetite, and gastric motility: the emerging role of the stomach as an endocrine organ. FASEB J. 18 (3): 445-450. (2004)
2) Mark Wine. Summer Fat Loss Tips pt. II: alcohol, fructose, protein, coffee, etc… functionalmusclefitness.com. 2012
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