By Flora Yatra, Biochemist
The start of a new season brings new goals related to health and more specifically weight balance. Losing weight, after the summer holidays, is the most common goal for many people, regardless of age and gender. Monophagous diets with juices, chemical diets, malnutrition are models of nutrition that promise quick weight loss and visible results.
Is it really necessary, in order to lose weight, to count every calorie and exclude entire food groups from your diet? Or is there a different approach, more effective and enjoyable?
In fact, the key to long-term weight loss is adequate protein intake. It is important to understand that in a weight loss process, the main element we should control is fat. For example, a 2 kg weight loss after a strict diet is usually due to loss of fluids or even muscle tissue. These quick results though, lead to rapid weight regain. On the contrary, if you aim for fat loss, then you will experience permanent results from safe fat loss techniques.
How can protein help with weight balance?
Protein enhances muscle recovery and muscle mass formation. Muscles are the body’s main metabolic organ. The decrease in muscle mass over time is the main cause of the decrease in metabolic rate in older ages. Since metabolism is affected by the amount of muscle tissue, as muscle tissue increases, so will the metabolic rate. You can achieve this with systematic muscle strengthening, combined with adequate protein intake through nutrition.
Equally important is the effect of protein on satiety. In a recent study by the University of Sydney’s Department of Biochemistry, researchers rated satiety for 38 foods, with protein-rich foods receiving the highest scores. The “information” about the feeling of satiety in the brain is given by certain hormones. In particular, cholecystokinin (CCK) is a hormone produced in the duodenum, by the cells found in this part of the small intestine. Its main function is the regulation of appetite and as a result it exerts an anorexic effect. The YY peptide also has a similar effect on appetite regulation, and by extension weight loss. Increased protein intake increases the secretion of the above hormones, while at the same time it has been linked to a decrease in the levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. In order to achieve weight loss, the regulation of hunger is crucial.
An additional element that affects hunger is the glycemic index of foods. The glycemic index of foods is a numerical value that shows how much carbohydrate foods raise blood glucose. An excessive increase in blood glucose leads to the feeling of hunger, frequent lack of energy and uncontrollable desire for sweets. When a protein source (eg AMINO ANIMO organic protein) is added to a snack or meal with a basic carbohydrate source (e.g. fruit smoothie), insulin secretion is stimulated, resulting in glucose being transported from the blood to the cells. As a result, the absorption of carbohydrates is slowed down and blood sugar levels are regulated and thus, the feeling of hunger is regulated.
In conclusion, it is important to realize that adequate protein intake is key to weight balance, as it aims to regulate key factors such as metabolism, satiety levels and blood sugar. Therefore, before you rush to follow another grueling diet, consider whether it is ultimately more worthwhile to choose the fast way or the most effective one.
- Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RD. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.084038. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 25926512.
- Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30;29(3):166-173. doi: 10.7570/jomes20028. PMID: 32699189; PMCID: PMC7539343.
- Holt SH, Miller JC, Petocz P, Farmakalidis E. A satiety index of common foods. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995 Sep;49(9):675-90. PMID: 7498104.