Protein – Best Friend In The Weight Loss Journey
Nipa Asharam

Nipa Asharam
19 March 2020

This article is authored by Nipa Asharam. Nipa is a full-time practising life coach and wellness coach under the brand 'Eat.Breathe.Smile'.

Protein for Exercise

We are stuck in one stereotype thought process that if we zip our mouth and exercise more, we will lose weight. We think deprivation and aggression is the answer to a weight loss journey.

Honestly, I do not blame anyone because I have believed this for as long as I can remember. No doubt you get results for a bit but then it stagnates. Cravings, hunger, energy level issues, erratic sleep and mood swings become regular. Even if we ignore these body cues and keep pushing our body, we see the opposite happening and that is weight increase!

Apart from all my learnings in weight loss, one of the most important one has been about the significance of protein for weight loss! How did I miss this? It can help on so many levels, which makes fitness and wellness a lifestyle choice.

Did you know that we keep eating carbs till we make up for the protein content that the body needs? Yes! It needs this protein for several reasons and the body keeps asking for it and instead of consuming protein, we go all out on carbs!

Protein Foods

Here are some very convincing facts on co-relation of protein and weight loss that will make you reflect on your protein choices today itself:

  • Fact 1: It reduces appetite and hunger levels. The three macronutrients — fats, carbs, and protein — affect your body in different ways. Studies show that protein is by far the most filling. It helps you feel fuller with less food. This is partly because protein reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. It also boosts the levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full. These effects on appetite can be powerful. In one study, increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories made overweight women eat 441 fewer calories each day without intentionally restricting anything.
  • Fact 2: Protein is the building block of your muscles. Building muscles is a huge part of weight loss so we look toned and in shape. We also lose muscle mass as we age so it is important to keep muscle intact. Without muscles we may be left with sagging fat. Therefore, eating adequate amounts of protein helps you maintain your muscle mass and promotes muscle growth when you do strength training.
  • Fact 3: It boosts metabolism and increases fat burning. Eating can boost your metabolism for a short while and that is because your body uses calories to digest and make use of the nutrients in foods. This is referred to as the thermic effect of food. However, not all foods are the same in this regard. In fact, protein has a much higher thermic effect than fat or carbs — 20–35% compared to 5–15%. High protein intake increases the number of calories you burn. This can amount to 80–100 more calories burned each day.

We almost need 1 gram of protein for every kilogram. I got into the mathematics of this after I realized how important this nutrient is! However, we also want to eat protein in a way that is delicious and nourishing. So, one of my suggestions to my clients is eating different kind of pulses. We ate that as kids and therefore it hits home with a feeling that we desire. Here some good options for you:

  • Soybeans: Soybeans may be high caloric affair but they hold 36.49 gms of protein per 100 gms serving. This is a better serving to protein ratio than traditionally protein-rich chicken breasts and boiled eggs!
  • Masoor dal: At 22 gms of protein per serving (1 cup), red lentil or masoor dal is an extremely common protein option in numerous households around the country. It is also rich in dietary fibre much like other lentils and pulses from its family. There are times when I just have masoor dal, salad and yogurt, which not just fills me up but I enjoy a fair bit.
  • Moong dal: At 16 gms of protein, this pulse is extremely common in our country, and different varieties of namkeen and snacks also utilise it. I love it as a chilla or khichu preparation with herbs and spices. I also add loads veggies to make it a standalone dish. This makes preparation simple as well.
  • Urad dal: Yet another bean (also called black lentils) with strong levels of protein and dietary fibre. One cup of cooked dal is about 17 grams of protein.
  • Chana dal: Uncooked and raw chana dal is a great option for your protein needs. You may make a curry out of it, or even something like a hummus. At 19 gms of protein per 100 gm serving, it is definitely a legume to watch out for. But, do make sure to consume it as raw as possible, cooking it, will lead to a loss in protein content.

It is really simple to make a change of reducing carbs and adding more protein. Our Indian food culture is actually very rich in protein options as you can see from the varieties I have stated above! So, amongst other steps that you are taking for weight loss, make sure this really important one isn’t missed out. Ultimately, we are what we eat.


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