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Using Protein Supplements to Lose Weight

Using Protein Supplements to Lose Weight

Face it, dieting is hard. If it were easy, there would only be one plan, it would work and no one would be overweight ever again. We eat to be healthy and to have energy. We eat because our body is convinced it is hungry. We eat because we see others eating and want to be social. We eat because we are happy, sad, mad, glad or indifferent. We eat because it is dinner time. We eat because it is Tuesday afternoon. Dieting does not address the whole picture, nor does it address the mechanics of the body. Dieting, especially the extreme, hardcore, fad diet, is going to start off strong and then fade off after a week or two. Once the person stops the fad diet and returns to their normal way of eating, they regain what they lost and then some, starting off another swing in the vicious dieting cycle.

Any diet plan has to address the reasons that we eat, both biological and psychological, the basic needs of the body and the key components of a revved up and ready to go metabolism. Most diet plans destroy the metabolism because they drop the calorie count down too low and the body is convinced that it is starving to death. Instead of burning fat to survive, the body will hang on to everything that it gets. Instead of trying to subsist on less than adequate food and nutrition, it is time to learn more about how the body works and to feed it the fuel that it needs to survive. Fad diets, extreme diets and celebrity diets rarely work, especially for the long term. Any diet that suggests that you overload on one macronutrient, while ignoring entire food groups, is not going to work. Any diet that suggests that you eat foods that you know in your heart are not good for you is not going to work.

Protein has long been talked about in the dieting world as the miracle food. Protein is vital to every cell, but there are several myths surrounding it that must be dispelled for good health and proper nutrition. Just as you cannot live on carbs alone, you cannot live on proteins alone. Too much protein is just as bad as too much fat or too many carbohydrates. Finding the right balance between these three, with adequate caloric intake every day and the right nutrition, is key to not only losing weight, but maintaining it for life. Protein has a number of benefits, including the ability to kick off hunger and to keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Adding a protein supplement to your daily routine is a good idea, however, the supplement must be a healthy choice, the proteins must be counted toward your overall daily intake and you cannot exceed the safe level that is set for you by your doctor or dietician.

Protein Myths versus Actual Needs

Of the myths that surround protein, the biggest might be that you can never have too much of it. Too much protein can be quite serious and can cause a number of health problems, including kidney stones and increased risk of osteoporosis. In addition, protein may also interfere with certain kinds of medications, most notably levadopa, which is used to treat Parkinson’s Disease. It may cause tooth decay and gum disease because it changes the nature of the saliva in the mouth, allowing bad bacteria to flourish. It may also be problematic to those who have psoriasis. In several studies, those with this skin condition saw a lessening in their symptoms when they greatly decreased their protein intake, especially from animal sources. (Source: Healing with Vitamins)

It is also a myth that protein never turns to fat in the body or that body builders become huge pantheons of muscle because of extreme protein intake. First, protein can and does become fat, just like anything else does. Second, body builders become big because of their genetics and because they practically live in the gym.

If you are under a doctor’s care for any reason, it is best to devise a diet plan with his or her advice, however, if you are curious about the rough estimate of your daily protein needs you can figure that out for yourself with a simple formula. You start by converting your weight in pounds to kilograms by dividing your weight by 2.2. You then multiply this number by.4 if you are sedentary, by.5-.8 if you are moderately active and by.8-1 if you are very active to get your daily protein need. (A body builder may need between 1 and 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight. In contrast, a newborn baby needs 2.2 grams per kg of body weight.) (Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Put another way, your upper limit for protein intake should be at about 35% of your overall daily calories. A weight loss plan that uses this number would include 15% of your daily calories from fat and the remaining 50% from carbohydrates. The protein keeps you feeling full so that you can reduce the overall amount that you eat. Splitting some of this amount up to allow for supplements can allow for smaller meals that will keep your metabolism blasting like a furnace all day long and will also keep you from having to deal with the cravings that can break a good diet effort.

Supplement Choices

Before you start shopping for the supplements, you need to know what kind there are and what makes one better than another. You should have an idea of how many grams of protein you need each day so that you will know how many should be in your supplement. You should also know what the upper limit will be on calories. Finally, you should also have an idea of how you plan to use the supplements in your efforts. Will you be using them as a between-meal snack to keep you going, or you will you take the supplement before you eat so that you can eat far less?

Protein supplements come in several varieties: powders, shakes, liquid shots, puddings, bars and waters. There are pros and cons with each of them, with some being far easier to bring along and some being difficult to find. If you have any medical conditions or any type of food allergies, you are strongly urged to talk to a doctor before starting any type of diet plan or using any protein supplements.

Protein Powders

The protein powders come in four main types: whey, rice, soy and egg. Some of these are single protein, while others are combinations of two or more. It is always better to opt for the single ingredient powders, especially if you have never tried them before. You may see the word “concentrate” or “isolate ” on the label – the concentrate is the most common form and is typically the least expensive. Isolates may be harder to find in some areas but are higher quality protein and might be worth the effort. The disadvantage of protein powders is the need to mix them carefully or be faced with clumps and chalky taste.

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes come in the three basic shake flavors, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, with some brands having an orange flavor as well. These shakes may be fairly high in calories, and are typically sold as a weight loss supplement to be used as a meal replacement option. Recent studies have shown that the shakes are beneficial to weight loss plans with the typical dieter keeping off around six times more weight than other dieters. These dieters typically also stay with the plan longer. (Source: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association). Diabetics may find the protein shakes beneficial to helping them to maintain a steady blood glucose level, however, they should be careful with the shakes that they choose, opting for brands especially designed for the condition.

Liquid Protein Shots

A protein shot is small and meant to be consumed quickly, which is especially beneficial for those who are on the go. The problem with some brands is the unsafe ingredients or the fact that they are overloaded with additional sugars that negate their nutritional value.

Puddings and Bars

The protein puddings are meant to give a small boost of protein and are supposed to be eaten before a meal. The body takes longer to digest protein but is kicked into high gear, allowing the dieter to eat far less without feelings of deprivation. A protein bar can be a great meal replacement as well, but it is important to make sure that it is not loaded with too much sugar or too many calories.

Protein Waters

Protein enhanced water is a relatively new entrant into this market, with the theory being that you drink the water as you normally would but the protein keeps you feeling full for longer. Again, make sure that the calorie count is not high on these or you can easily defeat the purpose.


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Healing with Vitamins, from the Editors of Prevention Magazine. Rodale Press. Emmaus, Pennsylvania. 2004.

The Journal of the American Dietetic Association


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