- Eating a high protein diet makes losing fat and building muscle easier.
- Doing so has helped me cut my body fat in half and maintain it.
- It takes planning, but simple swaps help me hit my daily target.
Protein is important for general health, but the nutrient is especially helpful for people wanting to lose fat or build muscle.
Protein uses more energy during digestion than carbs or fat, which makes it easier to stick to a calorie deficit, nutritionist Graeme Tomlinson told Insider. This is known as the thermic effect of food.
Protein keeps you fuller longer too, which will make overeating less likely over time, Tomlinson said.
The recommended daily amount for US adults is 0.8g protein per kg of bodyweight a day, but active people require more to help with muscle growth and repair.
Tomlinson recommends consuming at least 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day to lose body fat, but said the sweet spot is likely between 1.4-2g, depending on the individual. Aim to spread your intake out evenly throughout the day.
Eating a high protein diet has helped me cut my body fat in half, and I aim to eat 120-130g a day. This is now my normal way of eating, but it takes foresight. To meet this goal, I plan in advance and make simple food swaps.
1. Plan your food in advance
When I’m committed to my protein goal, I use the app MyFitnessPal to track my intake and plan my food.
Every evening, I take five minutes to log the meals I’m going to eat the next day, and then I assess where I’m at protein-wise.
If I’ve hit my target from breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I eat whatever I want for my snacks and don’t worry about the protein. If I haven’t, I know I need to make protein-rich choices.
2. Plan meals around protein
Whenever I’m deciding what to cook, I include a protein source and make sure the meal is balanced. So instead of just having a big bowl of pasta and veggies in a sauce, I might have a smaller portion with chicken on the side.
Basing meals around protein is still possible if you’re vegetarian — try tofu, seitan, dairy, eggs, or pulses.
3. Make high protein versions of your favorite treats
If you’re craving cookies, pizza, or cake, look for a high protein recipe, which can help satisfy cravings while keeping you on track.
4. Incorporate protein powders
Whole food protein sources are preferable, but protein powder can be beneficial. I often add it to my breakfasts in oats, pancakes, and smoothies.
While protein powder is a cheap and convenient protein source, for some it can lead to gut irritability.
I sometimes eat protein bars, but I check the ingredients and try to choose bars that aren’t also very high in sugar.
5. Make lower-calorie higher-protein swaps
If your goal is
, bulk out meals with high protein low calorie swaps such as:
- Adding egg whites to your scramble or omelette
- Fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream
- Turkey or chicken sausages, or meatballs instead of pork or beef versions
- Powdered peanut butter instead of regular
- Cottage cheese instead of ricotta
6. Snack on cooked meat
If you eat meat, jerky or chicken skewers can make a tasty savory snack — to save money, make your own in bulk and keep it in the fridge.
7. Add beans and pulses to dishes
Adding beans, chickpeas, and lentils to dishes such as bolognese and curry is a great way to add more protein and fiber, just be sure to work them into the overall calories if you’re aiming to be in a deficit.