As always in the field of nutrition, there are endless theories and opinions on almost everything and anything to do with food, nutrients and diets.
One topic that we can all agree on, however, is the effect of protein.
The first point that I try to emphasize when talking about protein is its effect on preserving your muscle whilst you are losing weight. (1) This is a crucial aspect of the weight loss journey, and should be prioritized, as muscle loss during weight loss is a real concern. (This is why we use the term fat loss, not weight loss).
Ensuring you are getting enough protein, at the right time, and of a high quality is an important area to consider when losing fat. This will help with muscle preservation, which will then serve a host of other health benefits.
The second point I make, and the most commonly known effect of protein, is its effect on muscle growth. When combined with resistance training, protein intake results in the growth of muscle tissue. (2)
Of course, intakes, quality and timing are factors in this equation, as is the quality of the resistance training you're completing.
One thing that I think is important to note; this does not mean you'll become a bodybuilder! In fact, growing just 1kg of muscle is tough, and takes really dedicated effort. When we say growth above, we mean small amounts of growth. (Unless you dedicate your nutrition and training towards hypertrophy).
And thirdly, and probably the least recognized reason protein is an important macronutrient, is its effect on appetite and satiety.(3) Protein rich foods help to keep us full in between meals, and they also help to keep us more satisfied in between meals . As we know, the less hungry we feel, and the more satisfied we feel, the less likely we are to compensate and therefore over eat in that particular day.
And, finally, a bonus point: protein has a high thermic effect, meaning it requires a high amount of energy to digest. The suggested figures are around 20% of the energy the protein contains. In other words, if you consume 100 calories from protein, 20 calories will be expended during the digestive process.
Perhaps not a sole reason for increasing protein intake, but a fun fact none the less.
Drew is a personal trainer and nutritionist and is the co-founder of Evexia Wellbeing. Drew specialises in long-term habit change, body composition training, and mindset.