The Power of Protein: Use it to Lean Out!

The #1 question I hear from clients: “How do I lose weight and keep it off?”

Anyone can go on a “diet” and lose weight. The problem is that not only does that weight return, but it often comes back accompanied by a few “friends” (i.e. extra pounds).

You can beat the vicious cycle of weight loss and regain in one simple step: consistently add more lean protein to your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course, it’s still vital to eat 5-6 small meals a day because frequent, portion controlled eating reduces blood sugar and hunger.

This is not a diet, but a life-long dietary change that is sustainable – which is exactly why it works!


Protein builds and maintains muscle mass and is necessary to make hormones, enzymes, and antibodies to protect against disease. It helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and can serve as an energy source when carbohydrates and fats are not available.

More lean protein in the diet boosts the metabolism. It has the effect of lowering triglycerides and blood sugar. It also prevents muscle loss when you are eating fewer calories with the intention of losing body fat. Most importantly, it creates a feeling of “fullness” (satiety) so you don’t crave as much sugar. It also helps prevent over-eating calories at night.

Examples of high biological value proteins are eggs, whey protein, pork, fish, poultry and beef. The leanest choices are egg whites, 100% natural whey protein, fish and white meat poultry. For vegetarians who don’t eat animal proteins, beans, lentils and oats have more protein than other starches. Nuts have about 5-7g protein per 1/4 cup. Dairy products are high in protein, but choose organic when shopping for milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. One-half cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 15g of protein. On average, Greek yogurt has 11-13g of protein per serving.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a wide range of nutrient percentages for the population: 44-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% proteins, and 20-35% fats. This allows nutrition professionals to customize based on the individual’s needs.

When a client’s goal is to reduce body fat, feel more satisfied, control blood sugar and keep the weight off for life, I recommend, 55% of calories from carbohydrates, 20% fat, and 25% from protein. This is by no means a high-protein diet, nor “low carb”. It’s a healthy, balanced way to eat for life.

Although there is no evidence that high-protein diets cause kidney problems in healthy people, those with kidney disease must check with their health care provider before consuming 25% of calories from protein. For some forms of kidney disease, 25% may be too high.


To figure out your exact protein grams per day: Figure out your total calorie needs and multiply that number by .25.Then, divide the result by 4 (there are 4 calories per gram of protein). For example: If you are on a 1500 calorie diet, 25% of that is 374 divided by 4 = 94 g per day. If you are on 1800 calories: 1800 x .25 = 450, divided by 4 = 113g. For 2000 calories: 2000 x .25 = 500, divided by 4 = 125g per day.

When people eat more protein, they become full sooner and stay full longer. This means overall less hunger and sugar cravings. It is easier to consume fewer calories throughout the day and at night. Increasing your lean protein at three of your 5-6 small meals is a great way to consume fewer total calories. You will lose weight without going hungry or losing muscle mass.

The body uses more calories to process protein, and protein is less likely to store as body fat compared to fat and carbohydrate. Beware: if you over-eat your total calorie needs each day because you added the lean protein and didn’t reduce your carbohydrates, you will still gain weight. The idea is to increase your lean protein while still creating the calorie deficit you need to reduce your body fat – for life!

About Romy Nelson
Owner and operator of Essential Fitness, Inc., Romy is a nutritionist, media consultant and author. Her main goal is to teach individuals how to make long-term lifestyle changes, and break free from unhealthy eating patterns and the cycle of yo-yo dieting

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