We've all seen those silly pop-up advertisements encouraging us to "click here for one simple trick to lose weight". Most of them are ridiculous gimmicks and scams. Would you like some real science to help you instead?
I recently attended the international obesity conference called ObesityWeek in Boston. There were over 100 sessions, and over 5000 researchers, physicians, and other weight management professionals participated. (Check out the schedule here: https://obesityweek.com/program/) There was an astounding amount of information presented on nutrition, exercise, lifestyle counseling and medication, but out of the thousands of slides I saw, one simple slide stood out in my mind above all others. It showed the effect of starting a meal with protein, instead of starting a meal with carbohydrate.
Long story short - when we begin a meal with bread, our blood sugar spikes up - and stays up - which is unhealthy. When we begin a meal with protein, our blood sugar stays smooth and controlled. The ‘simple trick’ of starting a meal (or snack) with protein can help control blood sugar - AND can help control appetite, improve our energy level, even help our mood!
Benefits of protein for those trying to lose weight:
- Raises Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, also called REE/Resting Energy Expenditure) - you ‘burn’ more calories even when you’re not exercising - simply by increasing the ratio of protein to carbohydrate in your diet. Research suggests that higher protein diets can help ‘burn off’ 350 extra calories per day.
- Improves Satiety/Fullness/Satisfaction - protein helps you feel more full on fewer calories, so it’s easier to stay on a lower calorie diet! Protein can prevent the fatigue, and ‘hypoglycemia’ that people can feel on ‘old school’ higher-carbohydrate diets. The ‘SAD’ Diet (Standard American Diet) - contains a mere 12% of calories from protein on average. Try raising your protein percentage to 20-35% and you’ll feel more satisfied.
- Improves Blood Sugar after meals. The effect is strongest when you START A MEAL WITH PROTEIN! Protein has the functional effect of lowering the glycemic index. The A.U.C. (Area Under the Curve) of the post-prandial (after meal) blood sugar stays ‘low and smooth’ if you start a meal with PROTEIN.
- Preserves Muscle during weight loss - AND helps you build muscle more effectively during/after workouts, compared to a higher carb, lower protein diet. In other words - protein helps you create and keep your healthy muscle during weight loss (which maintains strength, metabolism, bone strength, coordination, prevent falls, helps smooth the appearance of cellulite, etc.)
- Improves mental alertness and sustained cognitive performance - as opposed to sugar/carbohydrate-heavy snacks, which give a temporary ‘burst’ followed by a ‘crash’. Wake up in the afternoon with a PROTEIN snack.
- Heal more quickly after surgical procedures - After surgery, our protein needs increase, and we will heal more quickly if we make sure our protein intake is adequate.
What kinds of problems can arise from a blood sugar level which spikes up - and stays up - after a meal? All sorts of issues may be connected: insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, etc. Forty percent of American adults have prediabetes or diabetes now - think about that for a second - 4 out of every 10 Americans have a problem with their blood sugar! Controlling blood sugar through diet, exercise, and weight management is becoming more important than ever!So, back to “one simple trick”: starting off a meal with protein can help us control our weight, appetite, blood sugar - even our mood - through the holidays and beyond.
Many people find themselves strapped for time, and end up neglecting themselves while taking care of others. Don't forget to take care of yourself! If you need help improving your protein intake, give us a call. You can also try our tasty protein supplements to help make it easier to stay healthy - and even lose weight - through the holidays! (Visit SeacoastNutrition.com and HealthyWeightCenter.com) seacoastnutrition.com
Updated research link - the preliminary research I reported on was finally published July 2015: