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How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle with the Protein-First Eating Strategy

Updated: Apr 30

Protein is the most powerful macronutrient for transforming your body and health. It boosts your metabolism, suppresses your appetite, preserves your muscle, and improves your well-being. Yet, most people don’t eat enough protein to reap its benefits. That’s where the protein-first eating strategy comes in. This article highlights what the protein-first eating strategy is, and why it’s the best way to eat for fat loss and muscle gain.


What is the Protein-First Eating Strategy?

The protein-first eating strategy is a simple but effective way to improve your body composition, health, and well-being. It is based on the idea that protein is the most important macronutrient for building and maintaining your muscles, boosting your metabolism, enhancing your satiety, and supporting your overall health. The protein-first eating strategy involves prioritizing protein in every meal and snack, and letting the rest of your diet fall into place naturally. By doing so, you can achieve your fat loss and muscle gain goals faster and easier, without feeling deprived or restricted.


Why You Need More Protein Than You Think

One of the key concepts behind the protein-first approach is the protein leverage effect. This is the idea that humans have a natural drive to consume enough protein, and will eat more food until they reach their protein target, regardless of the energy content. This means that if your diet is low in protein, you may end up overeating calories and gaining weight. Most people don’t get enough protein from their diet, especially if they rely on processed foods that are high in fat and carbs but low in protein. To avoid this problem, you need to include high-quality protein sources in every meal and snack, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. By doing so, you can:

● Increase your muscle protein synthesis and promote muscle growth and repair

● Boost your metabolism and burn more calories through diet-induced thermogenesis

● Enhance your satiety and reduce your hunger and cravings

● Improve your health and well-being by providing essential amino acids.


How Protein Boosts Your Metabolism and Burns Fat 

Protein is essential for boosting your metabolism and burning fat. When you eat protein, your body uses more energy to digest and absorb it, a process known as diet-induced thermogenesis or the thermic effect of food. This is especially when combined with resistance training and caloric restriction. High-protein diets can also reduce appetite and hunger hormones, increase satiety and fullness hormones, and preserve muscle mass and metabolic rate during weight loss. This means that protein can increase your calorie expenditure and help you create a negative energy balance, which is necessary for weight loss.

How Protein Protects Your Muscle and Strength

Protein is also vital for preventing muscle loss. Protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis counteracting muscle protein breakdown which occurs during exercise, fasting, and aging. When muscle protein synthesis exceeds breakdown, you gain muscle mass. Research shows that protein intake can influence both muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown, and thus affect your muscle mass and strength. It has been found that protein intake can:


● Increase muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle protein breakdown after exercise, leading to greater muscle recovery and adaptation

● Preserve muscle mass and strength during calorie restriction, leading to more fat loss and less muscle loss

● Prevent muscle loss and age-related muscle wasting in olderadults, improving their physical function and quality of life.


How Protein Enhances Satiety and Reduces Cravings 

Protein is also crucial for keeping you satisfied and preventing overeating. This is by influencing the levels of several hormones that regulate your appetite and hunger. One of these hormones is peptide YY (PYY), which is secreted from the small intestine in response to food intake. PYY reduces hunger by binding to receptors in the brain and signaling that you are full. Protein has been shown to increase the secretion of PYY more than carbs or fat, and thus enhance the feeling of fullness after a meal. Protein also affects other hormones that control your appetite, such as ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), and cholecystokinin (CCK).


How Protein Improves Health and Well-Being 

Protein has also been implicated in managing one's overall health and well-being. Protein provides your body with amino acids, which are the building blocks of many vital molecules in your body. These amino acids perform various functions such as:

● Supporting your immune system by producing antibodies, cytokines, and other immune cells that fight infections and diseases

● Enhancing your brain health by synthesizing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

● Balancing your hormones by forming the precursors of hormones, such as thyroid hormones, insulin, and growth hormone.

● Improving your sleep quality by increasing the production of melatonin


This article has delved into what the protein-first eating strategy is, how it works, and why it is the best way to eat for fat loss and muscle gain. It has also revealed the many benefits of protein for metabolism, satiety, muscle, and health. By prioritizing protein in every meal and snack, one can enjoy the taste, the satisfaction, and the transformation.

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