Positive and Negative Influences on Weight Management
Learn about the importance of protein in weight management with Marie Spano
02 Mar 2022
Maintaining a healthy body weight can help reduce risk of chronic diseases while also supporting optimal growth and development as well as muscle, bone, and overall health. A healthy weight range is one that is achievable through exercise and sound eating habits without the need for excessive exercise, chronic dieting, chronic overeating, or generally unhealthy behaviors to manage weight.
Protein’s Role in Weight Management
Protein intake is important for weight management, weight loss and weight gain. For anyone trying to lose weight, protein plays 3 important roles. First, protein helps improve satiety in a dose-dependent manner.
The more protein a person consumes, the more satiated they will feel in between meals.
Marie Spano | Nutrition Communication Expert
Secondly, protein has a greater thermic effect of feeding. This means you will burn more calories digesting protein as compared to carbohydrate or fat. And third, protein helps you retain lean body mass during weight loss (muscle makes up part of lean body mass).
Staying satisfied and not hungry is important for weight management. Protein improves satiety so we feel satisfied in between meals. Though it isn’t clear what the upper limit is, beyond which feelings of fullness are not increased, per-meal protein doses of at least 30 grams are generally recommended for enhancing satiety. A high-protein breakfast appears to be important for improving satiety during the day.
The Role of Stress in Weight Management
What we eat has a tremendous impact on weight management. However, it’s not the only factor. Chronic stress can make it difficult to lose body fat and maintain a healthy weight. There are several potential ways chronic stress can affect body weight.
Those under chronic stress may decrease physical activity, increase sedentary behavior, alter their eating patterns, sleep poorly, and experience an increase in food cravings. Also, chronic stress leads to changes in stress related hormones which can affect appetite.
When you are in a state of chronic stress, your brain may seek tasty high calorie foods.
Marie Spano | Nutrition Communication Expert
These foods temporarily calm down the brain. But this food reward-seeking pattern rewires your brain circuits and engrains this habit of reaching for non-nutritious, high calorie foods during times of stress. Additional research shows chronic stress is associated with an increased drive to eat, lack of dietary restraint, increased hunger and binge eating.
Stress doesn’t just affect the ability to lose weight. Stress can also make it tougher to pack on muscle. Sustained high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can inhibit muscle growth and increase muscle breakdown.
Manage stress by developing good coping mechanisms, incorporating mindful exercises such as Tai Chi or yoga, using meditation and deep breathing exercises (with a long exhale to calm down the sympathetic nervous system). Also consider setting yourself up for success by keeping healthy food options available, getting plenty of sleep and sitting down to eat without feeling rushed.
Maintaining and Building Muscle Mass
Muscle, like other tissues in the body, is constantly turning over. Old, damaged proteins in muscle are removed and replaced with new proteins. To maintain muscle, the body needs a continual supply of protein which provides amino acids that are used as building blocks to build new proteins in muscle tissue.
A lower-calorie diet that does not contain enough protein will lead to significant muscle loss as the body will not have sufficient amino acids to build new proteins in muscle,,. Therefore, during weight loss, protein needs are higher to preserve muscle tissue,,. A protein intake of at least 1.2 grams per kilogram body weight (0.55 g of protein per lb. body weight) is recommended to maintain muscle during dieting, though some people may need more protein, 1.8 to 2.7 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day, to minimize muscle loss.
High quality proteins, those which contain all essential amino acids and are easy to digest, such as dairy foods, are very beneficial for those who are dieting because they provide all the building blocks needed to maintain and build muscle. Research has found consumption of a high protein diet, especially dairy protein, in conjunction with a suitable exercise program can help protect muscle mass, or even help increase muscle mass, in dieting men and women.
For those who are trying to gain weight, a higher protein intake, when combined with a sound resistance training program, can help build muscle over time. To maximize muscle growth, a total daily protein intake of approximately 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram body weight is recommended.
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Healthy Weight Gain Strategies
In addition to consuming an adequate amount of protein each day, it is important to consume enough total calories for weight gain. There are several steps you can take to gain weight. These include:
- Snack frequently and choose high protein options such as trail mix, dairy protein fortified protein cookies, bars and shakes.
- Add shredded cheese to potatoes, casseroles and cooked veggies.
- Add dried fruit such as raisins to cereal, yogurt and other dishes.
- Add sliced avocado to eggs, salads and sandwiches.
- Use high calorie sauces on sandwiches, poultry, meat and more. Hummus, guacamole and salad dressing are all good options.
- Cook with calories – add oil, nuts, and seeds when cooking.
- Choose milk or 100% juice instead of water during the day.
- Top cereal and yogurt with hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, wheat germ or other higher calorie healthy toppings.
Protein plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy body weight. Whether you are looking to minimize muscle loss or maximize muscle gain, high quality proteins can support healthy muscle tissue.
The SureProtein Instagram, @nzmp_sureprotein, is a great resource for more information.
Nutrition Communication Expert
Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD is a nutrition communications expert and one of the countries leading sports nutritionists. Spano has appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS affiliates, and authored hundreds of magazine articles and trade publication articles, written book chapter and web copy on a variety of nutrition topics. She is lead author of the textbook Nutrition for Sport, Exercise and Health (Human Kinetics, 2017).