Between diet trends like dry fasting, the Slow-Carb diet, and even Warrior diet, it’s easy to forget that there are still some pretty simple, tried-and-true eating styles that are proven to work when it comes to weight loss. One example? A high-protein diet.
Increasing your protein intake can lead to increased muscle mass and increased metabolism, as well as other benefits (we’ll get into those below). What’s more, it’s not a restrictive eating method, which means it's more sustainable than a lot of popular diet approaches.
Still, it isn’t quite as easy as just eating more steak (sorry!), especially if you want to ensure a healthy, nutrient-dense diet that will actually help you shed pounds over time. The other tricky part? The best protein sources—fish, lean meats, dairy, beans—aren’t as quick or convenient as most carbs or even fruits and veggies. “Traditional protein sources aren’t usually grab and go. And if they are, they’re often processed, fried, or unhealthy,” says nutrition expert Angela Ginn, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
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That may help explain why up to a third of women between the ages of 20 and 40 don't get their recommended daily amount of protein, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And in light of the fact that a growing number of nutritionists believe that the current dietary guidelines for this mighty macronutrient are way too low, we're really missing out.
Consider this: A Johns Hopkins University study found that a diet in which roughly a quarter of the calories (about 60 percent more than the recommended 10 to 15 percent) come from lean protein sources reduced blood pressure, LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and triglycerides better than a traditional higher-carb diet. Other research finds that diets rich in protein can help prevent obesity, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Okay, so clearly there’s something to eating a diet that's high in protein. Here's what you need to know about using a high-protein diet for weight loss, and how to make it work for you.
How exactly does eating more protein help you lose weight?
The fact that a high-protein diet can help you lose weight might seem a little counterintuitive, especially since many high-protein foods are often more calorie-dense than many high-carb foods, like fruits and veggies.
But here’s the thing: High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them. They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. The cumulative effect has obvious benefits for anyone who is watching their weight.
In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of their diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories a day and lost about 11 pounds over the 12-week study without employing any other dietary measures.
And if, like most successful dieters, you’re burning calories as well as counting them, protein is doubly essential for making sure you lose fat, not muscle. Your body uses the amino acids in protein to build lean muscle, which not only makes you stronger and more toned but also burns calories even when you're not active. Ultimately, this keeps your metabolism humming along at high speed so you can burn off the occasional cookie, no problem.
How much protein should I be eating for weight loss?
Experts advise consuming between 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. That's 70 grams to 140 grams a day for a 140-pound woman. Skew on the high end if you're very active, and on the low end if you're trying to lose weight. If both apply, shoot for an amount somewhere in the middle—around 130 grams.
Aim to get at least 30 of those grams at breakfast, says Donald Layman, PhD, a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois. (That's roughly the amount you'll get from two eggs and a cup of cottage cheese.) After fasting all night, your body is running on empty and may start drawing on muscle tissue for fuel if you don't replenish its protein stores first thing in the a.m. Plus, studies have found that protein-rich breakfasts can help regulate your appetite all day.
But not all proteins are created equal. While nuts, whole grains, and veggies technically count, they don't contain all nine of the amino acids your body needs in order to build lean muscle. Those that do—known as complete proteins—are typically found in animal products. Your best bets are skinless white chicken or turkey, seafood, low-fat dairy, pork tenderloin, and lean beef. All of these foods have just one to three grams of fat per 50-calorie serving.
Vegetarians and vegans need to be a little more creative. Pairing incomplete proteins—peanut butter on whole-wheat bread, or brown rice and beans, for example—can pinch-hit for complete ones. Or nosh on complete proteins such as tofu, hemp seed, buckwheat, and quinoa. The beauty of protein is that with so many tasty options, getting your daily dose is a simple pleasure.
How much weight can I lose on a high-protein diet?
A high-protein diet can be great for weight loss since it naturally allows you to cut back on other items, like swapping in a salmon dish instead of pasta for dinner, according to Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City.
The amount of weight you may lose, though, will depend on various factors, including age, gender, what your initial diet looks like, and which types of protein you’re adding to your diet (again, you want leaner cuts of protein rather than high saturated fat items, for example).
One thing to keep in mind is that bodies absorb protein better when it comes with some carbohydrates, so pair your proteins with a vegetable or fruit to get the most out of it, says Zeitlin.
What are the health benefits of a high-protein diet?
Making sure that every meal and snack have a good source of protein in them will help keep you more focused and feeling satiated and satisfied throughout the day, Zeitlin says. Protein also helps build and maintain strong muscles so you may notice your body looking a lot leaner, even without working out.
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Additionally, if you’re cutting back on a lot of white flour items to make room for more protein then you’ll also reduce the amount of inflammation in your body, which may be contributing to weight gain. You may also notice that your skin looks clearer and brighter with less white starch and more protein, says Zeitlin.
What are the potential side effects of a high-protein diet?
If you're focusing on more protein and less carbohydrates in your diet, your fiber intake make take a hit, since fiber is only found in carbohydrates, says Zeitlin. Less fiber means more bloat, constipation, and higher risk of heart disease and chronic illnesses if you end up really deficient in the stuff. So make sure to include veggies throughout the day and add in plant-based proteins, like chickpeas, lentils and edamame, she says.
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Talk to your doctor before upping your protein intake a ton, just to make sure the diet is right for you and your needs, says Zeitlin. Extremely high-protein diets could cause stomach cramping, excessive urination, or constipation, and if you're experiencing those things, cut back to how much protein you ate before.
What does a sample day of eating a high-protein diet look like?
Here's an example of what a typical day on a high-protein diet could look like:
- Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs with spinach and ¼ avocado
- Mid-morning snack: Part-skim cheese stick
- Lunch: Salad with a sprinkle of hemp hearts and 6 oz. of grilled chicken
- Afternoon snack: Plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup of berries (either on top, or toss into a blender with 8 oz. of milk/unsweetened almond milk and have as a smoothie)
- Dinner: 6 oz. grilled salmon with roasted or sautéed veggies
14 Best Vegan Protein Powders, According To Nutritionists
What are the healthiest high-protein snacks?
Add these items to your grocery list to have high-protein snacks and foods on hand.
(1 packet = 9 grams of protein)
Easy to take on the go to add into any tea, latte, or water.
Nut Butter Packets
(1 pouch = 4-7 grams, depending on brand)
These are easy to keep at your desk or take with you when traveling. Add to some fruit or enjoy on its own.
Plain Hemp Hearts
(3 tbsps = 10 grams of protein)
You can simply add 3 tablespoons of hemp hearts to your salad or sprinkle into a yogurt for a versatile and filling protein option.
(1 snack size bag = 7 grams of protein)
These crunchy snacks are made from lupini beans and come in a variety of flavors.
Hemp Yeah! Protein Bar
(1 bar = 10 grams)
“Look for bars with single-digit grams of sugar and double-digit grams of protein," says Zeitlin.
(1 ounce = 9.4 grams)
Try beef or turkey—both make a flavorful snack.
Roasted Soy Nuts
(1/4 cup = 17 grams)
They're a nice break from the usual peanuts and cashews.
(4 1/2-tablespoon scoop = 16 grams)
Keep a canister of protein powder at your desk for a quick protein fix. It comes in four flavors.
(1 egg = 6 grams)
Cook a dozen, stick them in the fridge, and grab one when you need a high-protein snack or want to add protein to a meal.
(1 stick = 8 grams)
Pair some low-fat string cheese (80 calories each) with an apple and a few crackers for a filling snack that will easily hold you over until your next meal.
“The Fit Chick”
Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, Pn1 certified nutrition coach, pro licensed off road racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.
Emilia Benton is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor. In addition to Women's Health, she has contributed health, fitness and wellness content to Runner's World, SELF, Prevention, Healthline, and POPSUGAR, among other publications. She is also a 10-time marathoner, frequent traveler and avid amateur baker.
If you want to lose weight, aim for a daily protein intake between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (. 73 and 1 grams per pound). Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram (1-1.5 grams per pound) if aiming for weight loss.Is 30g of protein enough to lose weight? ›
Some nutrition experts recommend a 30/30 plan of 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking for weight loss.How much protein should I aim for a day? ›
Most adults need around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight per day (for the average woman, this is 45g, or 55g for men). That's about two portions of meat, fish, nuts or tofu per day. As a guide, a protein portion should fit into the palm of your hand.Will I lose weight eating 90 grams of protein a day? ›
To lose weight, diets with higher amounts of protein—between 90 and 150 grams a day—are effective and help keep you from losing muscle along with fat.How many grams of protein should a woman eat a day to lose weight? ›
How much protein should I be eating for weight loss? Experts advise consuming between 0.5 grams and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. That's 70 grams to 140 grams a day for a 140-pound woman. Skew on the high end if you're very active, and on the low end if you're trying to lose weight.What breakfast has 30 grams of protein? ›
Five hard-boiled eggs will get you 30 grams of protein (6 grams per egg). Eggs are one of the most popular high-protein breakfast foods and provide essential fats. If you're not interested in the yolks and want to only use the egg white for protein, you'll need about eight of them to yield the same 30 grams of protein.Will eating more protein help me lose weight? ›
Eating a protein-rich diet can help people lose weight because it can help them avoid overeating. A high protein diet can help build lean muscle when combined with exercise. Lean muscle helps to burn more calories throughout the day, which can also help with weight loss.How many calories should I eat a day to lose weight? ›
In order to lose at least a pound a week, try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days, and reduce your daily calorie intake by at least 500 calories. However, calorie intake should not fall below 1,200 a day in women or 1,500 a day in men, except under the supervision of a health professional.Is 30 grams of protein a day too much? ›
General recommendations are to consume 15–30 grams of protein at each meal. Studies show higher intakes — those more than 40 grams — in one sitting are no more beneficial than the recommended 15–30 grams at one time. Don't waste your money on excessive amounts.What happens if you eat too much protein? ›
Excess protein consumed is usually stored as fat, while the surplus of amino acids is excreted. This can lead to weight gain over time, especially if you consume too many calories while trying to increase your protein intake.
For example, if you are exercising and trying to lose weight, then Martin says she would increase protein intake to about 0.5 grams per current pound of body weight. So for 140 pounds, that protein RDA goes up to 70 grams per day.How many calories should I eat to lose 2lbs a week calculator? ›
Calculation. To lose 2 lbs. of body fat a week, you need to eat 7,000 calories less than you would need to maintain your current weight. In other words, if you weigh 200 lbs., you need at least 2,000 calories to maintain that weight.What are the 5 foods that burn belly fat? ›
- Beans. “Becoming a bean lover can help you lose weight and whittle your middle,” registered dietitian Cynthia Sass told Today. ...
- Swap your beef for salmon. ...
- Yogurt. ...
- Red bell peppers. ...
- Broccoli. ...
- Edamame. ...
- Diluted vinegar.
Since protein has calories, consuming too much can make it harder to lose weight. This can happen if you drink protein shakes along with your usual diet and you're not eating less calories or exercising. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that an average adult needs about 46 to 56 grams of protein a day.Is peanut butter high in protein? ›
Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy fats and is a good source of protein, which can be helpful for vegetarians looking to include more protein in their diets. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains up to 8 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of fiber.Which fruit has most protein? ›
Guava. Guava is one of the most protein-rich fruits around. You'll get a whopping 4.2 grams of the stuff in every cup. This tropical fruit is also high in vitamin C and fiber.Is canned tuna good protein? ›
Yes, canned tuna is a healthful food rich in protein and contains many vitamins and minerals such as B-Complex vitamins, Vitamins A and D as well as iron, selenium and phosphorus. Tuna also contains healthy omega 3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA.What are 3 foods that are high in protein? ›
eggs. dairy products – milk, yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), cheese (especially cottage cheese) nuts (including nut pastes) and seeds – almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds. legumes and beans – all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.What should we eat in dinner to lose weight? ›
- Soup. You can never go wrong with soup. ...
- A bowlful of salad. When it comes to salad, you have unlimited options. ...
- Idli. We're not talking about white rice idlis here. ...
- Grilled chicken or fish. ...
- Quinoa. ...
- Cottage cheese. ...
- A bowl of lentils.
Losing 5 Pounds a Week
To lose 1 pound a week you need to reduce your intake by 3,500 calories over seven days, to lose 5 pounds you need to create a weekly deficit of 17,500 calories — or about 2,500 calories per day.
But the average weight loss that most people see on the 1200 calorie diet is about one to two pounds per week.”How much protein should a 60 year old woman? ›
For women over 50, experts recommend 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of weight (1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds). If you weigh 140 pounds, for instance, you would need at least 63 grams of protein a day.What disease is caused by too much protein? ›
Amyloidosis is a condition in which too much of a particular protein (amyloid) collects in the organs, so that they are not able to work normally. Amyloidosis can affect the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system, stomach or intestines.How does too much protein damage kidneys? ›
Having too much protein can cause waste to build up in your blood, and your kidneys may not be able to remove all the extra waste. If protein intake is too low, however, it may cause other problems so it is essential to eat the right amount each day.What does protein in urine look like? ›
Foamy, frothy or bubbly urine.What happens if I eat protein and don't exercise? ›
"Protein has calories, so if you eat a little too much, and don't exercise, it can get stored as fat."Can too much protein cause high blood pressure? ›
High protein consumption may increase blood pressure, according to a new study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition.What does 30g of protein do to your body? ›
In one study, researchers found that a meal containing 30 grams of protein boosted muscle-building activity by about 50%. That's the amount of protein you'd get in a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast or a quarter-pound of lean beef.Is 30g of protein a lot? ›
To be clear, 25 to 35 grams per meal is a lot of protein, especially if you're not someone who regularly prepares every meal at home. But it's not impossible. You can give your body the protein it needs with zero baking, roasting, sautéing, or even microwaving anything.What can 30 grams of protein do? ›
Consuming 30 grams of protein first thing in the morning prevents a mid-morning blood sugar crash and keeps your metabolism humming all day. It also helps build lean muscle mass, which means the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn sitting at your desk.
- High-Protein Breakfast Bowl. Heat 1 tbsp. ...
- Steak and Eggs. ...
- Sweet Potato Salmon Avocado Toast. ...
- Sweet Potato Hash with Bacon. ...
- Strawberry Milkshake with Collagen. ...
- Chocolate Coconut Smoothie Bowl. ...
- Bulletproof Coffee with Collagen Protein.
80 grams of protein:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, OR. 4.5 cups of cooked lentils, OR. 4-5 servings (28-32 ounces) of low- or nonfat Greek yogurt, OR. 2 pounds of firm or extra-firm tofu, OR.
In case you were wondering, 300 grams is actually a lot of protein. By way of reference, 300 grams of protein equals 7.5 ounces of chicken (60 grams), one 12-ounce steak (85 grams), two 6-ounce cans of tuna (80 grams), a half dozen eggs (35 grams), 3 cups of milk (25 grams), and 7 ounces of tofu (15 grams).Is 2 eggs a day enough protein? ›
No, 2 eggs do not contain enough protein for optimal muscle protein synthesis following a workout. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the optimal amount of high-quality protein for muscle protein synthesis post-workout is 20-30 grams .What fruit has the most protein? ›
Guava. Guava is one of the most protein-rich fruits around. You'll get a whopping 4.2 grams of the stuff in every cup. This tropical fruit is also high in vitamin C and fiber.Is one egg a day enough protein? ›
Eggs are a nutritious protein source and a staple in many people's diets. Though they're high in cholesterol, they also have many health-promoting qualities. For healthy adults, eating 1–2 eggs a day appears safe, as long as they're consumed as part of an overall nutritious diet.Does eating protein for breakfast help you lose weight? ›
A new study in the International Journal of Obesity shows that eating tons of protein in the morning—think at least double what you're eating now—can help you consume 400 fewer calories throughout the day and burn more fat over time. How much protein are we talking about here?How can I get 25g of protein per meal? ›
- Pasta Topped With Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese.
- Tuna Salad With Crackers And Peppers.
- Snack Plate With Hard-Boiled Egg, Beef Jerky, Cheddar Cheese And Crackers.
- Greek Yogurt Topped With Walnuts An Apple.
- Cottage Cheese With Pineapple.
- 7 oz Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat 20 grams protein.
- ½ cup cottage cheese, low-fat 14 grams protein.
- 2 oz turkey sausage 14 grams protein.
- 2 large eggs 13 grams protein.
- 1 cup milk, nonfat 8 grams protein.