One of the most common complaints I hear from dieters is that weight loss plans always seem to involve losing muscle as well as fat.
This is a serious problem – especially for older dieters. You see, as we age, we tend to lose lean muscle mass. This process is called sarcopenia. When you add a typical diet plan to the mix, you accelerate the loss of muscle mass. And that’s not a good thing.
But losing weight doesn’t mean you have to lose muscle. In fact, you can lose more weight while holding on to more lean muscle by following an extremely simple plan.
The Secret: Don’t Just Cut Calories
The trick to healthy weight loss is to hold onto the muscle while you lose the fat.
But most weight-loss plans are based on portion control. You cut calories by eating less.
And when you do that, you not only lose fat, you lose lean muscle as well.
You see, it’s not just how much you eat. It’s also what you eat. And when you want to lose weight – without losing muscle mass – what you need to eat is protein.
Protein Boosts Weight Loss Three Ways
First, protein makes you feel full. Eating protein, you feel full longer than you would if you ate carbohydrates. And that’s exactly what Australian researchers found when they tested skim milk against a fruit drink.
They gave some subjects skim milk with breakfast, while others received a fruit drink. The people who drank the skim milk reported feeling fuller four hours later. They proved it by eating about 8.5% fewer calories at lunch than the fruit drink group.
When the two groups switched breakfast drinks, the results were the same. The two drinks had the same amount of energy, too… but the milk contained 25 grams of protein.1
Second, a high-protein, low-carb eating plan builds lean muscle. In fact, when the University of Florida reviewed 87 studies, they came to the conclusion that high-protein, low-carb eating has a positive affect on body composition, regardless of the number of calories consumed.2
In other words, even if you weren’t on a diet, eating more protein would encourage your body to add lean muscle.
And, finally, eating more protein speeds up weight loss. That’s because protein increases a process called thermogenesis. Put simply, protein revs up your metabolism, so you burn more calories.3
Of course, you shouldn’t take this information as a license to go out and eat lots of fast food hamburgers. They contain protein… but they’re not healthy. Here are some good sources to boost your protein intake.
Adding Quality Protein to Your Diet
There are plenty of good sources of protein available.
For example, a quarter cup of almonds or pumpkin seeds contains about 8 grams of protein. But avoid the salted variety and those roasted in oil. All-natural peanut butter is another good protein snack. Two tablespoons contain about 8 grams of protein.
Fish fillets contain about 6 grams of protein per ounce. Wild-caught fish is best. Trout, North Atlantic mackerel, salmon and flounder are some low-mercury varieties.
There are about 6 grams of protein in a large egg. And lean chicken breast comes in at about 8.5 grams of protein per ounce.
So if you’re looking to lose weight – but not lean muscle – don’t just cut calories. Switch some of your carbohydrates for protein. If you do, you’ll be able to lose weight faster… and maintain better health.
Dr. Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
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