When people are thinking about improving their diet they often think about the foods they should cut down on, such as refined sugars and processed foods etc. Whilst this is a good start, you also need to consider what you need more of (usually veg, protein and fibre). A certain amount of protein is essential for health and if you are looking to lose some body fat.
Why is it so important?
Protein has a thermo genic effect on the body, which basically means it causes your body temperature to increase. This means your body starts to burn more calories as heat energy (anyone ever experienced the meat sweats?). This occurs because protein requires more energy for the body to digest it as opposed to carbs or fats; roughly 20-30% of the total amounts of calories ingested are required for digestion.
Protein is also obviously extremely important if you are looking to gain or even maintain the muscle mass that you already have. *Disclaimer: Increasing your protein intake does not instantaneously turn you into The Incredible Hulk. If you are trying to lose body fat, the more muscle mass you can maintain whilst in a minor calorific deficit, the faster you will tend to lose the fat. No one wants that “skinny fat” look where you look tiny in clothes, but are still upwards of 25% body fat.
Finally protein will keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is half the battle won when you are craving those mid afternoon snacks.
We tend to recommend around 1.5g of protein per kg of bodyweight as a starting point. This is why getting a quality protein source with every meal is important. For example, for someone who weighs 80kgs, 120g of protein are needed. Spread over three meals and maybe a post workout shake this is very achievable. However if you don’t include protein with breakfast, then minimal at lunch, it starts to become increasingly harder and you will end up attempting to take down half a cow for dinner.
When it comes to protein choices, complete proteins are best (proteins containing all 8 essential amino acids). So chicken, turkey, lean cuts of preferably grass fed red meat, free range eggs and seafood should be top of your food chain.