10 Science-Backed Reasons to Eat More Protein

By Kris Gunnars, authoritynutrition.com
June 10, 2015 Updated: June 10, 2015

People like to argue about fats and carbs.

However, almost everyone agrees that protein is important.

Most people are eating enough protein to prevent deficiency, but there are some who would do better with a much higher protein intake.

Numerous studies have shown that a high-protein diet has major benefits for weight loss and metabolic health.

Here are 10 science-based reasons to eat more protein.

(Kathy Burns-Millyard/iStock)
Fluffy Scrambled Eggs (Kathy Burns-Millyard/iStock)

1. Protein Can Reduce Appetite and Hunger Levels

The three macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein) affect our bodies in different ways.

Studies show that protein is by far the most filling. It helps you feel more full, with less food.

Part of the reason is that protein reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. It also boosts the satiety hormone peptide YY, which makes you feel full.

This effect can be powerful. In one study, increasing protein from 15 to 30% of calories made overweight women eat 441 fewer calories each day, without intentionally restricting anything.

If you need to lose weight or belly fat, then consider replacing some of the carbs and fats you are eating with protein. It can be as simple as making your potato or rice serving smaller, while adding a few extra bites of meat or fish.

Bottom Line: A high-protein diet reduces hunger, helping you eat fewer calories. This is caused by improved function of weight regulating hormones.

2. Protein Can Increase Muscle Mass and Strength

Protein forms the building blocks of muscles.

Therefore, it seems logical that eating more protein would help you build more of them.

(Ricardo Liberato/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)
(Ricardo Liberato/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Perhaps not surprisingly, numerous studies show that eating plenty of protein can help increase muscle mass and strength.

If you’re physically active, lifting weights, or trying to gain muscle and strength, then you need to make sure that you’re getting enough protein.

Keeping protein high can also help prevent muscle loss when your body is in a “catabolic” (breaking down) state, such as during weight loss.

Bottom Line: Muscle is made primarily of protein. A high protein intake can help you gain muscle mass and strength, and can reduce muscle loss when losing weight.

3. Protein is Good For Your Bones (Not The Other Way Around)

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(Neil Conway/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

 

There is an ongoing myth that protein (mostly animal protein) is bad for your bones.

This is based on the idea that protein increases “acid load” in the body, leading to calcium being leached from the bones in order to neutralize the acid.

However, most long-term studies show that protein, including animal protein, has major benefits for bone health.

People who eat more protein tend to maintain their bone mass better as they get older, and tend to have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

This is especially important for women, who are at high risk of osteoporosis after menopause. Eating plenty of protein and staying active is a good way to help prevent that from happening.

Bottom Line: People who eat more protein tend to have better bone health as they get older. They have a much lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

4. Protein Can Reduce Cravings and Desire for Late-Night Snacking

A food craving is different from normal hunger.

It is not just about your body needing energy or nutrients, it is about your brain needing a “reward”.

As a former drug addict, alcoholic and smoker, I can tell you that a craving for junk food feels exactly the same as a craving for drugs, alcohol and nicotine.

Unfortunately, cravings can be incredibly hard to control. The best way to overcome them may be to prevent them from showing up in the first place.

One of the best ways to do that is to increase your protein intake.

One study in overweight men showed that increasing protein to 25% of calories reduced cravings by 60%, and reduced the desire to snack at night by half.

Protein Reduces Cravings

The blue bar on the graph is the high-protein group, and the red bar is the normal-protein group. As you can see, increasing protein intake caused a drastic reduction in cravings and late-night snacking.

Studies in girls also found that just eating a high-protein breakfast reduces cravings and late-night snacking. This may be mediated by improved function of dopamine, one of the main brain hormones involved in cravings and addiction.

Bottom Line: Eating more protein has been shown to reduce cravings and desire for late-night snacking. Just eating a high-protein breakfast may have a powerful effect.

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