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Want to Lose Weight? You Need This Must-Have Item in Your Diet

May 8 2016 - 5:00pm

When you're on a weight-loss journey, eating adequate protein is essential to your success. According to clinical and holistic dietitian Esther Blum, many of her clients start to shed pounds with ease once they increase the amount of protein in their diet, since high-protein foods take more work to "digest, metabolize, and use, which means you burn more calories processing them." A longer digestion time also means that you stay fuller longer, unlike the crash-and-burn effect that comes from eating fatty foods and refined carbs.

Beyond giving your metabolism a boost and keeping you satisfied for longer, one study has shown that in addition to a regular exercise routine, doubling your protein intake [1] (as recommended by the RDA) may be the key to losing fat pounds without dropping muscle mass. This is key since muscle burns more calories in the body than fat. In short, if you're serious about weight loss, you've got to take protein seriously.

Not positive you're getting enough protein in your life? Read up, incorporate these tips to your daily diet, and start seeing results!

— Additional reporting by Michele Foley

The Magic Number

To make sure you're getting the right amount of protein in your diet, you have to know what your body requires! The CDC's average requirement of protein for women ages 19 to 70 is 46 grams per day [2], but this is not the hard-and-fast number to follow — especially if you're active. Your recommended daily protein intake depends on a number of factors, including your weight, your activity level, and whether or not you're pregnant.

Check out this handy chart [3] to find the magic number that will support your personal goals.

The Foods to Choose

Once you've determined the amount of protein you need per day, it's time to look at the best foods to incorporate into your diet. When it comes to weight loss, meat eaters should always opt for lean protein sources, since they're significantly lower in fat. The leanest poultry pick is white meat with no skin, and if you're concerned that red meat is off limits, you'll be glad to know that there plenty of other lean red meat [4] options that support weight loss.

If you're new to a vegan or vegetarian diet, it's important to be fastidious about hitting your recommended protein every day. Read up on the best vegetarian protein sources [5] and the best vegan options [6] to make sure you're getting enough of these foods in your diet.

Timing It Right

Strength training is an essential part of any sustainable weight-loss routine, and how you fuel your body after your workout can have profound effects on your body's recovery. A tough strength-training session causes slight tears in your muscle fibers, and when your body heals the fibers, muscles strengthen, grow, and become more defined. In order for this process to happen, your body needs the amino acids in proteins to rebuild your damaged muscle tissue.

According to Tim Rich, a fitness manager at Crunch Gym, anyone doing endurance or strength training needs at least 10 grams of protein right after an intense workout to make sure the body receives the proper nutrients to aid in muscle repair and recovery. This is important to keep in mind as you're choosing the perfect post-workout snack [7].

Nike Master Trainer Marie Purvis has a breakfast mantra [8] when it comes to losing weight, getting lean, and staying energized: "Thirty grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up." She says this boost of energy helps you perform at your best, while keeping fatty cravings at bay. If you're concerned about how you'll ever be able to eat that much protein when you first wake up, blend up this quick banana bread smoothie [9] that meets her requirements.

Recipe Resources

Now that you've got all the facts, check out some of our favorite healthy high-protein recipes to cook up in your kitchen whether it's morning, noon, or night.

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