More and more experts agree that if you want to lose weight, simply cutting calories may not do the trick. In fact, the best route to managing your weight (and hunger) is increasing protein, at least if you consider a recent University of Illinois study that shows women who stick to a high-protein diet lose more weight and gain more muscle than women who cut calories but keep the carbs. Are you convinced that weight loss is more than just ‘calories in, calories out’ yet?
The study tracked 31 women over six months, all healthy but overweight, whose average age was 65 years old. All were put on 1,400-calorie-a-day diets, but half were put on a higher protein diet and half consumed higher carbs. Their diets broke down as follows:
- Higher-protein diet: 30% protein, 40% carbohydrate and 30% fat (by calories); subjects were given a 25-gram protein supplement twice per day.
- Higher-carbohydrate diet: 18% protein, 52% carbohydrate and 30% fat, with a 25-gram carbohydrate supplement twice per day.
Additionally, both groups attended exercise classes two to three times per day that consisted of flexibility and cardio training.
The difference might not seem that drastic, but the results were: The group who ate higher protein diets experience 4% greater weight loss; lost 11% more body fat, and gained 6% more thigh muscle than the rest of the group.
And the study only echoes what other health and weight-loss experts are saying: A well-balanced diet with protein at every snack helps build and maintain muscle mass, regulate blood sugar levels (which helps regulate hormones, which make a big impact on our weight and body composition) and even keep you feeling more full and satisfied.
And if you’re having trouble letting go of the notion that all you need to do to lose weight is cut calories, just check in with the Tao of David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers International (the top-rated, $2.7 billion weight-loss empire):
…calorie-counting has become unhelpful. When we have a 100-calorie apple in one hand and a 100-calorie pack of cookies in the other, and we view them as being “the same” because the calories are the same, it says everything that needs to be said about the limitations of just using calories in guiding food choices.