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If you’ve been on TikTok recently, you may have seen nutrition and fitness influencers recommending that you eat as much protein as you can to promote weight loss. One popular recommendation is eating “30 in 30” or getting 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up.
But does loading up on protein actually work for weight loss? How much protein do you really need?
“I've observed a lot of confusion around protein requirements, as have many of my dietitian colleagues. I've seen misinformation from doctors, men's magazines, health influencers on YouTube, and out in the fitness world,” says Hanna Rifkin, RD, CDCES, and clinical health coach at Robin by One Drop. “More protein does not promote weight loss and does not have health benefits unless the person was previously truly deficient in protein. Eating more protein than you need can lead to weight gain.”
The Benefits of Protein for Weight Loss
Protein is often referred to as the building blocks of life, and for good reason. It’s a critical macronutrient responsible for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues.
All proteins are made up of various combinations of 20 different amino acids. Your body can make 11 of them. These are called “non-essential amino acids.” The other nine are called “essential amino acids” and they come from your diet.
Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is one of the three macronutrients your body needs to function. Protein differs from carbohydrates and fat in two critical ways that can make it beneficial for weight loss.
“Protein has a higher thermogenic effect compared to carbohydrates and fats. This means that the body expends more energy (calories) to digest and process protein,” explains Steve McCarthy, CPT. “It requires more effort for the body to break down protein into its constituent amino acids, leading to an increased metabolic rate.”
Protein also helps people feel fuller than carbohydrates and fat. It has the same amount of calories per gram as carbohydrates—four calories—but protein makes you feel full for a much longer period of time because of the more complex molecular structure.
“One of the significant effects of protein is its ability to increase satiety and reduce hunger cravings,” explains Isaac Robertson, certified personal trainer (CPT). “This can lead to a reduction in overall calorie intake, as individuals are less likely to consume excessive amounts of food or engage in unnecessary snacking.”
The higher thermogenic effect and greater satiety that come from protein are typically what fitness influencers focus on when they recommend a high-protein diet. But how much is too much?
Why More Protein Is Not Always Better
If you’re choosing to lose weight by decreasing your overall calorie intake, then adding more protein will increase your calorie intake, which defeats the purpose of eating fewer calories.
“When the quantity of fat, protein, or carbohydrate is consumed in a quantity that is more than the body needs, it will metabolize into fat,” explains Rifkin.
While protein is valuable for weight loss due to its higher thermogenic and greater satiety effects, eating excessive amounts without considering your overall calorie intake, nutrient balance, and your own individual response can keep you from seeing weight loss results.
Basically, if you increase your protein intake and keep everything else the same, you’re likely going to gain weight because your overall calorie intake will increase.
Calculating How Much Protein You Need
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Using this calculation, someone weighing 200 pounds (approximately 90 kilograms) should aim for roughly 72 grams of protein per day if they want to maintain their weight.
When calculating how much protein to eat, be sure you’re using the right units of measurement which is kilograms. “I've seen people calculate the amount of protein they need incorrectly, using pounds instead of kilograms,” continues Rifkin. “This means that the the result is 2.2 times greater, since one pound equals 2.2 kilograms.” Or, if you want to use pounds, One Drop has done the math for you! You can use this equation:
Weight in pounds x 0.36 = Recommended grams of protein per dayExample: 200 pounds x 0.36 = 72 grams
The Bottom Line
Incorporating more protein into your diet when you’re trying to lose weight can be beneficial due to its higher thermogenic and satiety effects. But increasing protein alone is not enough for weight loss. Excessive amounts of protein will be turned into fat and keep you from reaching your goals.
It’s important to adopt a balanced approach to nutrition and consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine a balance based on your specific needs and goals. Consider reaching out to your Robin by One Drop clinical health coach for nutrition and diet recommendations personalized for you.