This article was originally written by the Sequence clinic team (now known as WeightWatchers Clinic).

Why protein is so important during weight loss

Published July 25, 2023

What is protein?

Protein is an essential macronutrient found throughout the body in muscle, tissue, bone, eyes, skin, and hair. Protein is made from building blocks called amino acids. We have 20 different amino acids in our bodies, 9 of which we cannot make on our own — meaning they must come from the foods we eat. Protein is involved in many important processes in the body beyond building muscle.

Functions of protein

Protein helps maintain a bunch of important bodily functions e.g.

  • Protein provides structure for tissues like bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin, and muscles
  • It supports tissue repair and wound healing
  • Protein makes antibodies to protect us from infection
  • It is involved in the production of some hormones that carry messages throughout the body ex. Insulin and response to blood sugar
  • Protein helps to maintain fluid balance
  • It transports and stores nutrients

Why is protein important for weight loss?

There are 3 key reasons why protein is important for weight management:

  1. Eating enough protein can increase satiety and regulate appetite, resulting in overall reduced energy intake
  2. Protein helps preserve and increase lean body mass.
  3. Having more lean mass, in turn, helps to increase energy expenditure — meaning, the more muscle we have, the more energy our bodies will burn throughout the day.

When we lose weight, it can be easy to lose muscle along with your excess adipose (fat) tissue. This is what we as dietitians often worry about when members are losing a large amount of weight in a very short period of time. Eating enough protein helps prevent that muscle loss.
Studies have shown higher protein diets improve appetite control, fat loss, and preservation of lean mass or muscle when compared to lower protein eating plans. That’s why we recommend including protein in all meals and snacks.

What are sources of protein?

Animal protein: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy

Plant-based protein: tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, edamame, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower), quinoa

When you’re on a weight management medication, it can be hard to eat enough protein without feeling full. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of easy ways to eat more protein without feeling full.

How much protein do we need?

We recommend consuming at least 1-1.2g of protein per kg of current body weight.

You can calculate your protein needs using this formula:

current weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = my current weight in kilograms

current weight in kilograms x 1.2 = goal grams of protein per day

For example, if a person weighs 200 lbs (90 kg), we would recommend a total of 90-110 grams of protein per day. That would mean eating about 30-40 grams of protein (4-6 oz) at each meal. It’s important to remember to include protein with snacks too, aim for about 10g with each snack.

Keep in mind, this number is just an estimate! We do not recommend strictly tracking your intake every day and it is not necessary to exactly hit your protein goals — you can absolutely eat more! These numbers should simply serve as a guide, along with your hunger and appetite, to influence you to include more lean proteins in your diet when and where you can.

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