Q: Why does lean protein help me lose weight?
A: Just like you need carbohydrates and fat, you also need protein in order to live. When you think protein think building–you need it to build muscles (and skin and hair), build hormones and enzymes, and even build antibodies for a healthy immune system.
Protein is used in many bodily functions including cell maintenance and repair and blood clotting.
Ever wonder why your belly rages in hunger shortly after that morning muffin but stays calm and quiet after a hearty omelet? You guessed it: protein.
It aids in satiety by affecting the hormones which control hunger and how fast food empties from our stomachs. It also has the highest thermal effect of food (TEF), meaning it burns the most calories during digestion, versus carbs and fat.
And, we all know that protein helps build muscle and muscle burns more calories (yes, even while you’re asleep) than fat.
The USDA defines lean meat as having less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce portion.
It’s also defined as a 1-ounce serving having 2 to 3 grams of fat.
Lean meat provides less calories for equal amounts of protein than higher fat meat. An example of this would be different cuts of beef.
One ounce of a lower fat cut like a top round offers 52 calories, only 2 grams of fat (.75 grams saturated), and 8 grams of protein.
Comparatively, the same one ounce of a higher fat cut such as a ribeye steak contains a much higher 83 calories, a whopping 6 grams of fat (3 grams saturated), and a comparable 7 grams of protein.
Note that fish such as salmon and certain plant protein like nut butters will have more fat than this but are heart healthy fats and certainly good sources of protein. I always recommend including them in the diet.
So, what exactly do I want you to put on your plate to meet those protein needs to slim your waistline and build your biceps?
Best Sources of Lean Protein
- Almonds (1 ounce has 6 grams)
- Black beans (½ cup has 8 grams)
- White meat skinless chicken (4 ounces has 20 grams)
- Whole eggs (1 large egg has 6 grams)
- Hemp seed (1 ounce has 10 grams)
- Nutritional yeast (2 tablespoons has 8 grams)
- Peanut butter (1 tablespoon has 4 grams)
- Pork tenderloin (4 ounces has 20 grams)
- Sardines (3 sardines have 24 grams)
- Soybeans (½ cup has 15 grams)
- Grass fed tenderloin steak (4 ounces has 30 grams)
- Wild salmon (4 ounces has 28 grams)
- Tuna fresh or canned (4 ounces has 28 grams)
- Skinless turkey breast (4 ounces has 20 grams)
It’s recommended that approximately 15% of your daily calories come from this macronutrient to meet your basic needs. I believe a healthy diet may safely have as much as ⅓ of your daily calories from protein.
Don’t forget we need the most protein when we’re growing (kids and pregnancy) and repairing (injured or recovering from intense strength training).
And, yes, lean protein will help you lose weight.
Aim to get it in at every meal, include plant (even you carnivores) and animal (unless of course you’re vegetarian or vegan), choose lean meat when choosing animal or fatty fish and don’t forget variety.