Protein is a fundamental nutrient in a healthy intermittent fasting meal plan. Not only will a higher protein intake help boost your metabolism and set your weight-regulating hormones into motion, but it can also help you shed stubborn body fat.
It might be tricky to learn how to incorporate protein into your intermittent fasting routine at first, but it’s certainly not impossible. By combining protein-rich dairy, legumes, and other vegetable sources into your diet, you can reap all the weight loss rewards of intermittent fasting while staying alert and ready to take on your day.
The Role of Protein in Weight Loss
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that your body produces multiple hormones before, during, and after you eat to determine how much food you’ll need to feel satiated. A high protein meal plan reduces your hunger hormones and boosts your appetite-suppressing hormone release to help you feel full longer. This full feeling can help you not overeat during or after your fast.
In fact, replacing unhealthy carbs in your eating plan with protein can also reduce your calorie intake over time. Researchers revealed a 30% daily protein intake can help you eat 441 calories less daily – a massive amount, especially if you’re aiming to lose weight. In addition to curbing your hunger, protein can also help boost your metabolism and increase your daily calorie burn.
After you eat, a portion of those calories is used to help digest and metabolize your food. This phenomenon is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Experts believe a whopping 20 to 30% of protein calories are burned to digest your food, while only 5% of carbohydrate calories burn during digestion. An increase in protein intake helps you spend more calories throughout the day, thus boosting metabolism and increasing your daily calorie burn by about 80 to 100 calories per day.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
Intermittent fasting designates an eating window for you to consume all of your day’s nutrients. However, just because your eating window is smaller while fasting, doesn’t mean you should eat less protein. You must power your body with protein to feel full during your fast and maintain a high level of energy throughout the day.
According to the National Academy of Medicine, adults should consume a minimum of 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. If you’re approximately 150 pounds, you should consume just over 50 grams of protein per day. If you’re approximately 250 pounds, you should increase your daily protein intake up to 90 grams.
When is the Best Time to Eat Protein?
When you decide to consume your protein will vary depending on the intermittent fasting protocol you choose. For instance, if you choose a 16:8 protocol, during which you fast for 16 hours throughout the night and into the morning, you’ll likely prefer to eat your protein later in the evening before your fast begins. Ideally, you should eat some protein before starting a fast to feel full longer. However, you can choose to start your day with more protein as well.
If you increase your protein intake with breakfast – or the first meal you have when you break your fast – researchers believe you’ll have greater appetite control during the day, lower your insulin levels, and eat less at lunchtime. On the other hand, experts found that eating protein with dinner will also increase satiety and make it less likely you indulge in unhealthy food in the evening. Remember you don’t need to eat all of the day’s protein at once within your eating window, so feel free to make breakfast or dinner more protein-focused while still incorporating protein-rich foods like yogurt or oats.
Protein-Rich Foods to Eat While Intermittent Fasting
You can find protein in tons of healthy foods, including veggies and nuts. A variety of protein-rich foods you can incorporate into your meal plan while intermittent fasting includes:
- Legumes: Soybeans, lentils, pinto beans, lima beans, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, and white beans.
- Grains: Quinoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds, kamut, millet, couscous, oatmeal, and buckwheat.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, corn, brussel sprouts, asparagus, and watercress.
- Dairy: Eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.
- Beef, Poultry, and Seafood: Tuna, salmon, beef, bison, turkey, and chicken.
- Plant-Based Meat Substitutes: Tempeh, tofu, seitan, and jackfruit.
A high protein eating plan offers a plethora of weight loss benefits, from improved metabolism to reduced calorie intake. By incorporating protein-rich foods into your intermittent fasting routine, you can begin shedding unwanted fat and improving your health, one meal at a time.
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