Should You Double Up On Protein to Lose Weight?

Elizabeth Narins, Women's Health

Drink up your protein shakes, ladies.

Most weight-loss plans have one thing in common: eating less. But new research suggests that eating more could boost fat loss—more protein, that is. Dieters who double their protein intake lose more fat and maintain more muscle mass than dieters who eat the recommended daily amount, according to a new study published in The FASEB Journal.

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In the study, 32 men and 7 women followed a 31-day weight-loss diet that contained either the recommended daily amount (RDA) of protein, twice the RDA, or three times the RDA. At the end of the study, everyone had lost about the same amount of weight (an average of 2.7 to 3.5 pounds). However, the people who doubled up on protein lost the most fat; it amounted to about 70 percent of their total weight loss. For those who ate three times the RDA, 63.6 percent of their weight loss was due to fat loss. And the people who ate the recommended amount of protein fared the worst: Only 41.8 percent of their weight loss was from fat.

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Researchers say that eating protein can boost the rate at which your body repairs and builds new muscle after you workout—and that’s a good thing since the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. The thing is, eating too much protein (i.e., three times the RDA or more) seems to slow down this process. No one knows exactly why, says Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor in chief of The FASEB Journal and research professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. (He was not involved in the research.)

So how much protein should you eat for weight loss? Multiply your weight by 0.36 for the recommended daily amount of protein (in grams) that you should be consuming. Then double that number. That’s about 110 grams of protein per day for a 150-pound person or slightly more if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, super-active, or elderly. (Find out how many grams of protein are found in chicken, fish, cheese, and more here.) Just make sure you also cut back on carbs and fat while you’re at it. Otherwise, you’ll eat more calories overall—a surefire recipe for weight gain.

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