Have you heard this before?
“Trying to lose weight? Eat more protein!”
It’s definitely true that increasing your protein intake is one of the most effective ways to kickstart or accelerate your weight loss.
While each macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fat) helps you to feel satisfied and reduce hunger, protein is the most effective of the 3 calorie-for-calorie.
So your brain starts going to the ways you can increase your protein intake…
You come up with a list that looks something like this…
- Nuts/Nut butters
But wait a second…will those foods really increase your protein intake?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Depending on how familiar you are the macronutrient breakdowns of foods, you might have looked at that list said “Heeyyyy…some of those foods aren’t so high in protein”.
If so, you’re right.
In fact, NONE of those foods are particularly high in protein.
Egg whites are a dense protein source, but the yolk has nearly 4x as many calories from fat compared to protein.
If you were to use eggs as your main protein source at breakfast, you would need 4 eggs to give you 24 grams of protein. And even with the egg white in there to balance things out, the yolk makes it so that you’re getting over twice as many calories from fat than you are getting from protein.
Throw some butter and bacon into your breakfast mix and you have a very high-fat meal with a little bit of protein as a bonus.
And that’s ignoring the practical reality that you’re not going to eat 4 eggs.
At least I don’t think you will. I’m told they’re very filling. I wouldn’t know…
“Okay…so what about cheese?”
1 ounce of cheddar cheese has 7 grams of protein.
How much dietary fat? 9 grams.
Since fat has over twice as many calories per gram as protein, that means that 70% of the calories in cheddar cheese are from fat.
Fat content will vary from one cheese type to the next, but it’s safe to say that in general, cheese has more fat and less protein than you expect.
I’ll go gently with this one. Let’s take a look at the nut with the most protein per calorie. Peanuts.
“But actually, they’re a legume”
Nobody cares. Where were we? Oh yeah…
For every 24.1 calories you get from peanuts, you get around 4 calories worth of protein.
For just 6.6 grams of protein, you would also get 125 calories from fat.
And that’s the “nut” with the MOST protein!
“Okay…I get it. So next you’re going to say that hummus doesn’t have much protein, either, right?”
Bingo. Pretty much the same deal as the peanuts. 1.2 grams of protein for every 25 calories you eat.
“So…if these aren’t good foods, why does everybody say they are?”
Okay, beep beep beep. We gotta back this truck up.
1) Being lower in protein and higher in fat doesn’t make a food “bad”. It just makes it so you probably don’t want to prioritize it as much as the lower fat, higher protein alternatives.
You still need fat. You just don’t want to routinely eat super high-calorie high-fat meals while believing that they’re moving you towards your goals because they have some protein.
2) Recommendations about protein needs are often to support general health sedentary people who aren’t trying to lose weight.
Meaning that if you’re focusing on nutrition changes to lose weight, you need more protein.
And the more protein you need, by definition, the more protein-dense your meals need to be.
In other words, a food giving you 5 grams of protein is a lot more helpful if you only need 50 grams a day rather than 100 (or more) grams per day.
But this doesn’t mean that these types of foods can’t be helpful. It depends on context.
I break protein sources into two categories.
1) Primary sources
2 )Secondary sources.
A primary source is a food that is made up…wait for it…primarily of protein.
A secondary source is a food that has mostly calories from fat or carbs, but gives you some significant protein too.
We can further break the secondary sources down into “fat-based secondary protein sources” and “carb-based secondary proteins sources”.
The foods we talked about today are fat-based secondary protein sources. Mostly fat. Some protein.
This post is already longer than I planned…
In the next day or two, I’ll talk about when and how these secondary sources can help boost your protein intake and help you feel your best and stay in control of your weight.
In the meantime, start taking a look at your protein sources.
Are they from leaner sources?
Or is the dietary fat adding up faster than you would have assumed previously?
P.S. If you want to get started losing weight without feeling restricted or deprived, check this out