If you want to lose belly fat, gain muscle or become leaner, it is essential to consume protein with every meal. Most people know about avoiding carbodydrates, trans fatty acids or processed foods when changing their diet to burn more belly fat. Little do they realise the importance of consuming certain foods that aid belly fat loss; protein being one of them.
Protein is essential for creating new cells for skin, hair, nails, bones and muscle. Next to water, protein makes up about 15-20% of your weight. This macronutrient is required for maintaining healthy, proper functioning immune system and building muscle tissue.
Unlike carbohydrates which can be stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen and used when needed, protein can't be stored in the body. That's why you need to consume protein with every meal. Sources of complete proteins include egg whites, lean chicken, lean turkey, fish, lean red meats, low fat cottage cheese and whey protein powder.
How does protein help you lose belly fat?
1. Thermic effect of protein
Protein has the highest thermic effect of any food. Thermic effect is the amount of energy (calories) required to digest, absorb and utilise this nutrient. The body needs to work harder to break down protein, thus raising your metabolism. Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fats, and is less likely to be converted to fat than any other nutrient. A high protein diet can be effective for belly fat loss.
2. Protein builds and maintains muscle
Muscle is a fat burning furnace even when you are at rest. The more muscle you have, the faster it burns belly fat. Good quality protein prevents muscle break down when consumed immediately after a workout and provides essential amino acids for rebuilding muscle. For belly fat loss, the general guideline for protein is 30% of your total calorie intake or 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. If you are on a low carb diet (low calorie), be sure to increase your protein intake to prevent muscle loss.
3. Protein curbs hunger
Eating only carbohydrates causes fluctuation in blood sugar and insulin levels. The over secretion of insulin promotes fat storage and prevents belly fat loss. When blood sugar is high, insulin is released into the body to clear up excess glucose in the bloodstream. The lower blood sugar results in mood swings, fatigue and cravings for more carbohydrates.
You can manage your blood sugar and insulin levels by combining carbohydrates with lean protein at every meal. This leaves you feeling full and more satiated for longer period of time, and keeps your cravings under control.
If you want to maximize belly fat loss, be sure to include protein in your diet. You may need more or less than the baseline requirement. There are no hard rules. Adjust your protein intake in accordance to your belly fat loss results.
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