How Much Protein Should You Eat to Lose Fat?

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Fat loss is a tricky thing. There are so many mechanisms involved. This is probably why we still don’t have the magic ingredient, recipe, or workout that guarantees fat loss.

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 455 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

Daily Protein Requirements

I will use my psychic abilities and go out on a limb by saying chances are, you’re probably already consuming enough protein. How could I possibly know this? This is because there have been a lot of data collected on how much and what types of food populations around the world consume regularly. What we’ve learned is that most consume plenty of protein each day. But how much protein do we need to support fat loss? Is there a magic number?

Let’s say that you are relatively active and incorporate resistance training into your routine. The American College of Sports Medicine says that in this case you need to consume 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight. It’s frustrating for those of us in the U.S. because their recommendations don’t use ounces of protein and pounds of body weight. But luckily the math isn’t too hard. We’ll figure this out together… stay with me here.

Let’s say you weigh 125 lbs. To use the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations, we need to convert your weight into kg. Luckily, the math is simple: take 125 lbs. and divide that by 2.2. Even if you don’t weigh 125 lbs., you would still divide your body weight by 2.2.

125/2.2 = 56.82 kg. Now, what?

Now that we know this, we can figure out how much protein you need to consume each day.

Like I mentioned before, the American College of Sports Medicine says if you’re performing a good amount of resistance training, you need somewhere between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight. We know your hypothetical body weight in kg–we just figured that out to be 56.82. So we take 56.82 and multiply it by the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations.

We’ll start by multiplying 56.82 (remember, that’s your body weight in kg) by 1.2 grams protein. Plug that into your calculator and you’d get about 68 grams of protein.

That means, at a minimum, you need to consume about 68 grams of protein each day to continue to build strength and muscle. Let’s find out how much you need to consume at a maximum, according to these recommendations.

We’ll again take your body weight in kg, 56.82 and multiply that by 1.7 (remember, the recommendations said 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein should be consumed each day, so we’re using the higher number here).

56.82 x 1.7 = 97 grams of protein.

If you (or, really, anyone else that weights 125 lbs.) wants to get enough protein to support muscle growth, you need to consume anywhere between 68 and 97 grams of protein per day.

For those of us in the states, we still don’t quite know how to make sense of grams, so bear with us. 68 and 97 grams of protein is about 1/3 to ½ cup of cooked chicken for example. Someone that weighs 125 lbs. needs to eat about ½ cup of cooked chicken each day to ensure they’re getting enough protein to build strength and muscle. Not much, I know. Plus, this doesn’t include any protein they’re getting from other sources: eggs, meat, dairy, beans, soy, breads, etc. So, sadly, I’m not really psychic. I just know that most people get way more protein than that each day.

Protein and Fat Loss

How does this relate to fat loss? Some studies have found that if you consume more protein, more than what’s often recommended, you may be more likely to lose body fat. This may happen because protein helps us feel full, which can prevent us from eating too much and too often. Consuming fewer calories consistently will definitely lead to weight loss and possibly fat loss. But here’s the trouble: just like carbs can get converted by the body to fat, so can protein. If we eat too much protein, our bodies may convert it to body fat. So increasing protein intakes may not help with fat loss.

What about eating 5-6 times a day? This is not necessary. Again, the theory is that by eating more often, you will actually end up eating less in the long run. This is because you won’t ever feel starving and have those binge-eating moments. But the problem is that you may never really feel satisfied, either. And what if you’re not really hungry but it’s time to eat? If you force yourself to eat when you’re not really hungry, you could be hurting your progress. Plus, if this behavior continues, you could end up developing a new bad habit: eating when you’re not really hungry!

The Bottom Line

First, getting enough protein is important for a number of reasons… not just fat loss. But you’re probably consuming enough protein each day as it is. Consuming more may not lead to fat loss, but fat gain. If you want to support fat loss, consider focusing instead on watching calories, incorporating regular exercise (particularly resistance training), and maybe some high intensity interval training. Then do these things consistently.

In time, the fat will come off. You may notice that it starts coming off from the weirdest places, like your wrist. The watch you wear may start to feel loose, but that’s ok. That means it’s working. Eventually, the body will turn to losing fat around other areas, like the belly, hips, legs, and arms.

Where your body first chooses to give up its fat stores is based on genetics. So if it doesn’t come off of your hips as quickly as you’d like, you can blame your parents for that one!

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 455 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.