When discussing protein we must first separate the fact from fiction

There are many benefits to consuming protein but there are also many supposed benefits that do not stand up. Eating protein will not increase your muscle size or improve strength. Adding protein to your diet will not help you lose weight, it will cause you to gain weight (replacing fat or carbs with protein is another matter).

Just because something that you are eating is high in protein doesn’t mean that it is healthy. Finally, eating a high protein diet will not harm your kidneys, unless you have a pre-existing condition[1].


So, on to the reasons to eat more protein…

1. Protein helps promote loss of body fat

A study by Pasiakos et al (2013) found that consuming twice as much protein as recommended protects fat free mass (everything in your body except fat) and “promotes the loss of body fat during short-term weight loss” [2] Another study by Layman et al (2003) found that increasing the proportion of protein to carbs would produce positive effects on body composition in women [3].

Obviously you can’t just add more protein to your diet and expect to lose weight, you would need to lower the calories from the other macronutrients (fat and carbs) to fit it in.

Or you would risk gaining weight due to the extra calories.

The Layman study is particularly interesting as it found that increasing protein when in an energy restricted diet, meant that the subjects would lose body fat whilst maintaining lean muscle. Which is pretty much the goal of anyone who has ever dieted.

If you want to look ‘toned’ you need to have a low body fat percentage, whilst keeping your muscles from getting smaller. High protein diets can help you with that.

2. Protein will improve thermogenesis

Have you noticed that when you exercise your body temperature rises? Or if you have eaten a big meal you feel warm? How about when you come indoors when it’s cold outside and you are ridiculously warm after a couple minutes?

This is thermogenesis

reasons to eat more proteins to lose weight_2Or to put it simply the production of heat. Basically, whenever you get all hot and sweaty this is due to your bodies increased temperature. If you spend more of your day like this, your metabolism will be higher and your body will use more energy, meaning that so long as you don’t consume more calories than usual you will lose weight.

When people talk about metabolism they are describing three factors

– Your Basal Metabolic Rate which is the amount of calories your body requires for you to function normally (sleep, breathe, think, regulate body temperature).

– Physical Activity, which is the amount of calories you use when moving, lifting, standing.

– The thermic effect of food, so whenever you eat something it will require energy to digest your food, transport nutrients etc.

Protein, fat & carbs

Protein, fat, and carbohydrates are all processed differently and all require different amounts of energy. Fat is the easiest macronutrient to process, carbohydrates are a little harder – 3% and 7% respectively, whilst protein is the hardest and will produce a thermic effect of 30% [4].

So a high-protein diet will improve thermogenesis which in turn increases your metabolism. A study by Johnston, Day, and Swan (2002) found that thermogenesis was increased 100% on a high protein/low fat diet when compared to a high carb/low fat diet in women [5].

3. Dietary protein provides essential amino acids that the body cannot produce

As stated by John Berardi in “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition” [1] Amino acids that make up our proteins are responsible for pretty much everything in the body (muscles, ligaments, hormones, and enzymes to name a few). Amino acids are split up into 2 groups, Essential and Non-essential.

There are 12 non-essential amino acids that are formed in the body and do not need to be obtained from our diet, and 8 essential amino acids that cannot be formed in the body and need to be obtained from our diet.

Examples of these essential amino acids are Leucine, Lysine, Isoleucine (also known as BCAAs or Branch Chain Amino Acids).

Without adequate protein intake through diet, these amino acids will not be produced. Also, unlike fats and carbohydrates, protein is not stored in the body so you need to constantly top up your amino acids every day. If you do not, your body will begin to cannibalize enzymes and other proteins in the body which can cause severe problems long term.

Tomorrow, in Part 2 of this article, Expert Matthew Smith will continue with three more reasons why we should bring more protein into our diets, including an explanation oF why protein can boost our immune system!

Connect with Expert Matthew Smith.


[1] Berardi, J., Andrews, R. 2013. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition 2nd ed. Precision Nutrition, Inc. pp 162-165
[2] Pasiakos, S., Cao, J., Margolis, L., Sauter, E., Whigham, L., McClung, J., Rood, J., Carbone, J., Combs Jr., G., Young, A. 2013. Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: A randomised controlled trial. The FASEB Journal 27(9): 3837-3847
[3] Layman, D., Boileau, R, Erickson, D., Painter, J., Shiue, H., Sather, C., Christou, D. 2003. A reduced ratio of carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. Journal of Nutrition 133(2): 411-7
[4] Halton, T., Hu, F. 2004. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 23(5): 373-85
[5] Johnston, C., Day, C., and Swan P. 2002. Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy young women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 21(1): 55-61
[6] Clifton, P., Keogh, J. 2007. Metabolic effects of high protein diets. Current Atherosclerosis Reports 9(6): 472-8
[7] Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R., Wolfe, R., Astrup, A., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. 2008. Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Society for Clinical Nutrition 87(5): 1558S-1561S
[8] Daly, J., Reynolds, J., Sigal, R., Shou, J., Liberman, M. 1990. Effect of dietary protein and amino acids on immune function. Critical Care Medicine 18(2): S86- 93
[9] MacKinnon, L. 2000. Overtraining effects on immunity and performance in athletes. Immunology and Cell Biology 78: 502-509
[10] Greenhaff, P., Karagounis, N., Pierce, N., Simpson, E., Hazell, M., Layfield, H., Wackerhage, K., Smith, P., Atherton, A., Selby, M., Rennie, M. (2008) Disassociation between the effects of amino acids and insulin on signalling, ubiquitin ligases, and protein turnover in human muscle. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism 295(3): 595-604
[11] Boirie, Y., Dangin, M., Gachon, P., Vasson, M., Maubois, J., Beaufrere, B. (1997) Slow and fast dietary proteins differently moderate postprandial protein accretion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 94(26): 14930-14935
[12] Tang, J., Moore, D., Kujbida, G., Tarnopolsky, M., Phillips, S. (2009) Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology 107(3): 987-992
[13] Anthony, J., Anthony, T., Layman, D. 1999. Leucine Supplementation Enhances Skeletal Muscle Recovery in Rats Following Exercise. The Journal of Nutrition 129(6): 1102-1106
[14] Wolfe, R. 2006. The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 84(3): 475-482

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