Protein for Healthy Weight Management: Making It in a Pro-Thin Society
The purpose of this post is to highlight the importance of proper nutrition in weight management, such that we progress towards the action in a healthy and sustainable manner.
In a society where I experience and witness consistent distress among women regarding size, I hope this little knowledge will steer humans towards a more informed approach towards weight management. !(•̀ᴗ•́)و ̑̑
It’s likely that we had shared the same desire at some brief points in our lives - weight loss.
Whether the motivation comes from health or vanity, excess weight is rarely a thing celebrated by selves and society.
We can see the place of this elusive “weight loss” in our market - the buzzword marking products, services and advertisement spaces. Corporations have flirted with endless consumers’ minds this beautiful ideal of a thinner future, as if the number of ways to arrive there is infinite.
And while it may be, given all the science claims that decorate these methods... "Glucomannan may reduce fat reduction", "a Ketogenic diet will burn your fats", "Cryolipolysis technology can freeze them"... All these grand claims surround us! As if the question resides in all of us.
Or does it?
Global interest in the search term “Weight loss” on Google (2010 - 2020):
Are we consumers of a pro-thin culture? And is it also eating at our health?
Personally, yes yes and yes. The fear of weight has had me eliminate many things from my diet, engage in toxic exercise habits, and when I was younger even taking slimming pills and starving myself. The strangest is observing the same distress replicated among the hearts of many other females, all at varying degrees.
When I think about why I sink myself this deep into the pervasive thought of weight and size - was it the dying embarrassment of being made fun of in school, the fear of losing the acceptance and affection that a better aesthetic receives, or?
But - this isn’t a post to hate on beauty ideals, or a big rant on how society conditions us. Let’s just acknowledge it exists: the narrative of a healthy size and shape and figure… out how we can navigate it healthily.
Protein is an essential nutrient for our bodies - it repairs and builds our tissues, and coordinates bodily functions. Most frequently reported benefits include improvements in cardiovascular health, lipid metabolism, muscle synthesis, and glycaemic control (Bull et al., 2022).
But did you know that it has quite a role in healthy weight loss too?
~ STORY TIME ~
It started when my colleague who had lost a lot of weight casually shared with me that his occasional meal replacement was a Quest protein cookie with almond milk. I went to the supermarket. It was a year in my life where 7 kilograms had, to my dire dismay, invited themselves onto my stomach and thighs. God knows I was desperate for their departure.
Looking at the cookie wrapper, which proudly attested favorable macros: high protein, low fat and carb. I wondered just what this celebrated protein was all about - and is there a place for it in weight loss?
What was a burrow then turned into a rabbithole. Today I gather here three main ways the nutrient has been studied to assist weight loss.
Did Protein help me lose weight?
First off, protein is not a weight loss solution. At the end of the day, weight loss is about a calorie deficit. This means your calorie output surpasses your input. But, not all calories are the same.
My experience with protein is that it made my weight loss a healthier one, both physically and mentally - which is why I’m sharing it today.
Physically because of body composition, and mentally because it restructured my approach towards weight.
In a few senses, it really did nourish me in my pro-thin pursuits…
1. Higher Protein Intake Can Positively Influence Body Composition
Body composition is the relative proportion of the body’s Lean Body Mass (LBM) and Body Fat Mass (BFM).
Within LBM, there are three subdivisions, which are: Muscle, Body water and Bone mass.
Together, they produce a four-compartment model to assess body composition (Grumstrup-Scott et al., 1990).
Why does body composition matter?
Anybody who has had the grace of enjoying a peanut Ang Ku Kueh would understand the grave importance of the skin-to-filling ratio. A thick skin wrapped around a miserable morsel of ground peanuts does not produce the same euphoric effect of a peanut-plump kueh of thin skin, even if they share the same weight.
The concept can be similarly extrapolated onto body composition. Even with equal numbers on the scale, a body can look and feel quite different, depending on its composition. I urge all to focus not on the numerals but the make-up! ＝( ^o^)ノ ．．．…___ｏ
How can higher protein intake change body composition?
Eating more protein can alter lean body mass (LBM) more effectively due to increased muscle protein synthesis.
In a small study, thirty subjects each consumed an additional 954 kcal per day at varying levels of protein intake (ie. Low, normal and high). While the caloric excess met them all with an increased fat mass at the end, only the low protein intake group experienced a fall in LBM while the other two experienced gains (Antonio et al., 2014).
Aesthetically, significant inverse relationships between protein intake and waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio have also been observed (Green et al., 2010).
Can it get any better?!
Coupling higher protein intake with exercise has shown to improve lean mass retention (Noakes, 2008), increase muscle accretion and fat loss, along with possible benefits to bone health (Antonio et al., 2014).
2. Protein Can Lower Calorie Intake By Promoting Satiety
Satiety refers to the feeling of fullness, and the observation of it across high-protein diets drives at its superiority to high-carbohydrate diets in weight loss (Noakes, 2008).
Higher levels of satiety in protein, specifically whey protein, is commonly thought to be induced by glycomacropeptide (Chung Chun Lam et al., 2009) and GLP-1 (Westerterp-Plantenga, 2008).
When comparing high-protein diets with and without carbohydrates, the latter appears to produce greater appetite suppression and fat oxidation (Oliveira et al., 2020 ; Veldhorst et al., 2010).
But that doesn’t mean farewell to carbohydrates…
Keeping carbohydrate intake constant and just increasing dietary protein from 15% to 30% of energy has shown to produce an “Anorexic Effect”, whereby a sustained decrease in ad libitum caloric intake* is suggested to affect the body’s leptin sensitivity**, eventually resulting in similar weight loss.
*ad libitum: occurring, used, or distributed as often as necessary or desired.
**Leptin: a protein produced by fat cells that is a hormone acting mainly in the regulation of appetite and fat storage.
Thermogenesis refers to the production of heat through the oxidation of foodstuffs. The rate at which we “burn” these major combustible fuels we consume (ie. glucose, fatty and amino acids) forms our basal metabolic rate (Himms-Hagen, 1976) - which is what keeps our body alive and running.
Diet-induced thermogenesis is commonly referred to as the increase in energy expenditure above basal metabolic rate. Together with the energy cost of our physical activity, it sums up our daily energy expenditure (Westerterp, 2004).
Higher protein consumption appears to increase the thermic effects of both food (Belko et al., 1986 ; Hursel et al., 2009) and exercise (Binns et al., 2015).
Any excess energy as protein also affects our energy expenditure, stimulating how much we spend through the day - even at sleep (Bray et al., 2012 ; 2015). Increasing protein intake by just 17 to 21% can produce increase in the body’s resting energy expenditure (Riggs et al., 2007).
Does body size matter?
The thermogenic response to a mixed meal (involving carbohydrates, fat and protein) differs across body types. Body composition appears to be a significant determinant of how thermogenesis is experienced (Segal et al., 1985).
A study comparing meals with high-protein+high-fat and low-protein+low-fat discovers that the former produces a thermogenesis advantage (ie. increase in metabolic rate), particularly within normal weight individuals (Riggs et al., 2007).
Following the ingestion of fat and protein, a similar increase in the metabolic rate and thermic effect of food is observed among lean individuals. Obese subjects experience the smallest change under all resting, post exercise and exercise conditions (Swaminathan et al., 1985).
Whey vs. Casein
Dairy protein is generally composed of 80% Casein and 20% Whey. Although both are derived from animals, the two proteins differ in their amino acid profiles and metabolization processes.
Casein is thought to be a “slow” protein with a longer-term satiating effect, as opposed to Whey protein, its “fast” counterpart (Bendtsen et al., 2013).
Between the two, Whey protein generally produces a higher level of satiety and a lower desire to eat (Hursel et al., 2009 ; Pal et al., 2014). Casein, on the other hand, performs better in oxidizing lipid (Lorenzen et al., 2012).
Protein is paramount to our health, and can regulate body weight through its effects on body composition, thermogenesis and promoting feelings of satiety.
Paying attention to increasing protein within our diet invites changes to our body composition, protein metabolism and can even limit body weight regain (Westerterp-Plantenga, 2003). The effects are optimized with the inclusion of exercise in our lifestyles, so get some in! ᕙ[ ˵ ͡’ ω ͡’ ˵ ]ᕗ
The US recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g/kg/d (Antonio et al., 2014), and in the range of 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram (kg) body weight per day (g/kg/d) for active individuals. With nutritional information widely accessible online today, it's never been easier to be mindful about our diet.
In weight management, a pro-thin culture may not exactly birth a healthy will (didn’t think it did in my case), but hey - seems like protein will! (۶ꈨຶꎁꈨຶ )۶ʸᵉᵃʰᵎ
Fun fact - I have invested a whole lot of 2022 throwing myself into a grand exploration of protein options, in terms of flavours, nutritional profiles, whole and processed options.
Look out for more upcoming posts on this amazing nutrient! ଘ꒰ ๑ ˃̶ ᴗ ᵒ̴̶̷๑꒱و ̑̑
Thank You for reading.
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