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Healthy Weight Loss Diet

By Patricia Hudak

Every 10 years or so a new nutrient becomes the hot topic in the weight loss industry. Fueled by the running craze started by Jim Fixx the early 1980′s identified carbohydrates as the nutrient that required fixing and we began running. In the 1990s nutritionist identified fats – there were good fats, bad fats and now there are even fake fats. Today the hot nutrient is protein.

Interestingly all of these things are important for good overall health for any individual. We all need carbohydrates. We all need good fats. And we all must have protein in our diets in order to fuel our bodies. However, there are some authors who advocate the use of high protein diets and even higher protein diets in order to lose weight. The question really becomes how much protein do we really need and how does protein fit into the overall metabolism of an individual?

Protein is made up of 20 different building blocks called amino acid. There are essential amino acids, nonessential amino acids and several which fit into both categories. And, there are two kinds of protein – complete protein and incomplete protein. Complete proteins are called such because they contain all nine of the essential amino acids which are required by the body in order to build muscle tissue. There are other plant products that are called incomplete proteins because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids and must be used in combination to be complete.

Most dietitians agree that just because animal protein is complete it is not necessarily healthier. Animal sources of protein are higher in fat, especially saturated fat, and lower in fiber. Plant sources of protein don’t contain saturated fats, are always cholesterol free and have a plethora of disease fighting phytochemicals. However, plant sources of protein must be eaten in combination in order to be complete.

Some researchers believe that eating proteins triggers a natural weight loss phenomenon by releasing the hormone PYY which reduces hunger. Studies suggest that PYY is part of the solution to controlling obesity. For instance, compared to a normal weight person, an individual who is obese must eat twice as many calories to trigger the release of this hormone and therefore feel full.

Another study evaluated the release of this hormone in two different groups of men. All men in the study said that high protein meals best satisfy their hunger. However, normal weight men found that high-fat meals were more satisfying than high carbohydrate meals, which was the opposite for men who were obese. The study also measured the release of the hormone and found that high protein meals triggered the most hormone in all of the men.

In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers reported that study participants had greater satisfaction and less hunger when fat was reduced to 20% of the total calories and protein was increased to 30%. These participants ate 441 fewer calories per day then when they followed their own calorie intake. The research appears to bear out the theory that higher protein diets help people better control their appetites and calorie intake.

At this time the US Food and Drug Administration releases information that an individual requires 50 g of protein per day based on a 2000 calorie diet. This amounts to 10 percent of the calories from protein. These guidelines are only one aspect of protein requirement. Their goal is to ensure that an individual has enough dietary protein to support and muscle development but does not address the amount required to facilitate fat burning or preserve muscle during weight loss.

Eating protein also produces a lower amount of insulin than eating carbohydrates or fats. However, it also signals the body to secrete glucagon. This is another hormone that stimulates the body to get rid of fat by burning it for energy. Glucagon also decreases the production of cholesterol and stimulates the kidney to release excess salt and fluid.

While all this may sound promising there is a cap to the amount of protein that should be ingested at a healthy level. High protein diets to work for a good reason but they also place a greater amount of stress on the kidneys and metabolic system because they create a ketotic environment in the body. This means that the pH balance in the body has been thrown off in the body works to burn fat and protein instead of carbohydrates for energy. This releases more toxic waste into the bloodstream which must be filtered by the kidneys.

Another factor that goes into the use of protein in high protein diets is that the body must use more energy in order to convert these calories into workable energy for the body. For instance, the body will use up 30% of the calories from protein meal in order to break it down and metabolize it.

Those individuals who are also placing their body under strain in order to develop more muscle will find that they require slightly higher amounts of protein in order to develop muscle tissue. By building greater amounts of lean body mass they increase their calorie burn by increasing their basal metabolic rate and through the consumption of food which requires more calories to metabolize than carbohydrates or fats.

Protein plays an integral role in the overall health of an individual, whether they are trying to lose weight, gain muscle or just maintain a healthy lifestyle. The question of how much protein is required can only be answered by the goals of the individual, the amount of exercise they are obtaining and any other underlying medical conditions. Prior to increasing your protein amount greater than 25% of your total calories you should consult with your primary care physician to ensure that you are not impacting any other underlying medical condition.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Hudak, Patricia "Healthy Weight Loss Diet." Healthy Weight Loss Diet. 26 Aug. 2010. 3 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Hudak, P (2010, August 26). Healthy Weight Loss Diet. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Hudak, Patricia "Healthy Weight Loss Diet"

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