Heading into the new year carrying a little extra weight than you’d like? Holiday indulgences making your belly stick out a little further than it did in a few months ago?
To start the year off on the right foot, one of the most powerful changes you can make is to eat protein every three to four hours throughout the day. Here’s an excerpt from my book Jump Off the Diet Treadmill: 12 Weeks on Your Way to Lifetime Weight Loss, to explain why adding protein is so crucial.
The presence of protein stimulates the fat burning hormone, GLUCAGON.
Eating too many carbs leads to those carbs being stored as sugar in the muscles and liver. (We’ll talk more about this later). If there is excess sugar beyond what can be stored in those tissues, the extra supply makes its way to the fat cells where it is formed into fat/sugar molecules. Glucagon is the hormone that stimulates the fat/sugar molecules stored in the fat cells, to be transported from those cells so they can be burned for energy. If you want to shrink your fat cells, you need glucagon, which is released when you eat protein.
Eating protein helps to stabilize your blood sugar and reduces cravings
Glucagon also plays a role in ensuring that there is a balanced supply of sugar as a fuel source for the brain, muscles and tissues. If the supply of carbs/sugar is erratic, you will experience any number of symptoms that will make it difficult to maintain your energy and focus and will lead to cravings and binge eating. Symptoms of blood sugar irregularity are apparent when you go too long without eating a balanced meal with protein, and include the following:
- Low energy, fatigue
- Dizziness, faintness or light-headedness
- Nervousness or anxiousness
- Calmer after eating
- Sporadic ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ throughout the day
- Crave a lift from carbohydrates, sugar or alcohol, and then experience a drop in energy after eating them
- Frequent urination
- Frequent thirst
- Difficulty staying asleep
Protein stabilizes your mood, helps you focus and reduces cravings in another way
Our brains are programmed for pleasure. We want satisfaction and comfort. To have it we need an abundance of the pleasure and satiation related brain chemicals. Guess how they’re made? Protein. Yup. Surprise! The amino acids that are the building blocks of protein provide the raw material for the pleasure and satiation hormones dopamine, serotonin, leptin, CCK. With those hormones in balance, you will find that the need to seek comfort through sugar, fat and salt is lessened. With the physical cravings minimized – you will have more resources to deal with the psychological cravings.
I can’t emphasize the importance of protein enough. I have seen reductions in clients’ cravings, more energy, focus and stable moods within days when they eat enough protein consistently throughout the day.
To get your breakfast rolling in the right direction, here’s a recipe for a 5-Minute Protein Pancake.