When it comes to weight loss, people often talk about what you should avoid rather than what you should eat more of.
However, it might be time to change that mindset with the help of protein.
Protein is a key nutrient for weight loss and can help you achieve your slimming goals without the hunger and denial we usually associate with losing weight.
Protein is satiating – which means it helps us feel full. This is because, compared to carbohydrates (which make up the majority of most diets), protein takes longer to digest.Your body must work harder to produce the enzymes needed to break down protein-rich foods. As a result, they stay in your stomach for more time, making you feel fuller for longer.2 This feeling of fullness also results in fewer cravings for unhealthy foods and reduced snacking, meaning you eat less overall. Digesting protein burns more calories than digesting carbohydrates, too. Essentially, this means that eating more protein will increase your metabolic rate – meaning you burn more calories at rest – great news for anyone looking to lose weight.3
There is plenty of evidence to support protein’s role in weight loss.Replacing some of your diet’s calories from carbohydrates with calories from protein has shown to result in weight loss in several studies, without any adverse health side effects.4,5,6
It’s true that protein helps build new muscle tissue. But properly used, protein doesn’t just add bulk.
When teamed with exercise – particularly resistance training exercises like planks or push-ups – protein helps turn existing fat into lean muscle. So, if you pair your increased protein intake with exercise, you can expect to see your body composition change over time to include a lower fat percentage, more lean muscle and enhanced support for your bones and joints.
The best protein shakes for weight loss are simply made up of protein powder mixed with water.
Considering water is calorie-free and protein powders generally contain around 120kcal per portion, this will add up to a low-calorie snack. Even if you use plant milk, a protein shake is filling enough to replace a meal – with far fewer calories.
Of course, protein powder isn’t a magic weight loss powder. Simply adding protein shakes to your daily diet won’t make you lose weight. This will only make your overall calorie intake increase which will lead to weight gain.
The idea behind protein shakes for weight loss is to replace significant calories from whole foods with the satiating properties of protein. This means that perhaps you would have a protein shake instead of a full lunch, or another day you’d eat a light dinner of steamed vegetables and chicken augmented with a protein shake to prevent overeating or late-night snacking.Be careful of snacking on protein shakes between meals. Research shows that people who consume protein supplements in between meals as snacks may be less likely to be successful in managing their body weight.7 Overall, protein powder has shown to be an effective tool in weight loss, even compared to simple calorie reduction. Replacing some of your daily calories with low-calorie protein shakes is associated with more fat loss than a simple calorie reduction alone.8
What could be more convenient than mixing up a protein shake? It takes seconds, and you’ve got high-quality protein source ready to go.
While we are the first to champion home cooking as the first step towards a healthy lifestyle, sometimes you just don’t have the time to grill those organic chicken breasts before you’re out the door.
For these times, a protein shake is perfect.
As a result, just one scoop of protein powder contains around 25g protein.
You’d have to munch through plenty of whole food to get the same amount of protein you’d find in just a few sips of protein shake.
Not everyone has a large appetite or enjoys the taste of protein-rich foods. Protein shake are perfect if you struggle to eat large portions, as you can top up your protein intake while enjoying delicious flavours such as vanilla or strawberry.
Good protein powders are low in fat and calories. Made with water, a protein shake contains around 120kcal – 150kcal, while their protein content makes them filling.
Low calorie, filling food and drink is important if you’re on a weight loss journey.
When dieting, it can be so easy to slip off the wagon and turn to convenience or fast food when faced with an empty fridge.
Mixing up a protein shake at the same time each day helps keep you on track with your weight loss.
The best protein powder for weight loss is one that’s low in calories and fat.
It should also be low in sugar. Watch out for carbohydrates, too. Some protein powders contain high-carb thickeners such as potato starch or tapioca flour.
Remember, be careful with added extras. While it’s true that a few chia seeds, a little oatmeal, plant milks or coconut water can make the shake more tasty and help keep you full, it’s easy to go overboard and end up with a calorific drink.
However, when it comes to weight loss, the same rules tend to apply for both genders. Some protein powders are marketed more towards women and tend to avoid words like ‘muscle’ and ‘maximum’ to dispel the myth that protein powder makes you pack on bulk.
However, the reality is, there’s no real difference to the formulas. Sometimes, however, vitamins and minerals associated with women’s health are added to the protein, such as folic acid, vitamin B6 and iron.Women’s protein powders might come with a smaller scoop size, too, as women generally need slightly less protein than men. The NHS recommends 45.5g protein per day for women and 55.5g for men.12 Shop Protein
Author: Donia Hilal, Nutritionist
Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018. Donia has 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.Donia has a special interest in; weight management, plant-based nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, special diets and disease risk reduction. Donia's LinkedIn profile
Last updated: 9 December 2020