- Eating high-protein foods could help dieters burn calories and fat more efficiently, according to a new study.
- Researchers found that a high-protein diet slightly boosted the metabolism of young, healthy volunteers, causing them to burn more calories and fat.
- That could be because protein takes more energy to digest than carbs or fat, making it a promising tool for weight loss. More research is needed to see how this works in the long term and for people with obesity.
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Swapping out your regular meals with high-protein alternatives could help you lose weight, new research suggests.
People who replaced their normal diet with high-protein meal replacements have been found to burn more fat and calories throughout the day, according to a small study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers from the University of Alberta studied 43 healthy adults without obesity, testing their metabolism during two different 32-hour diets. In the first, participants consumed all their daily calories in the form of high-protein meal replacement shakes, with a ratio of 35% carbohydrates, 40% protein, and 25% fat. In the second, they ate the same number of calories in the form of everyday foods like fruit, turkey wraps and stir-fry. This time, the ratio was about 55% of daily calories from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 30% from fat.
All the participants tried both diets in a random order, with a period of several weeks in between the different diets.
The researchers found that participants burned an average of 80 calories a day more on the high-protein diet, and were burning significantly more fat.
Protein takes more energy to digest, boosting metabolism
Researchers theorize that a high-protein diet burned more calories because protein has a higher thermic effect, or takes more energy to process, than fat or carbs. As a result, the body has to work harder to digest a high-protein diet, and has more potential to burn calories and body fat in doing so.
On average, the volunteers in this study experienced a small calorie deficit on the high-protein diet, meaning they were burning more calories than they consumed, without doing more exercise or other calorie-burning activities.
The small calorie difference in this study wouldn’t be enough to make a significant different in weight loss alone, even over time. However, these findings suggest high-protein foods or meal replacements could be a tool to help people boost calorie- and fat-burning efforts.
This is supported by previous research that found high-protein diets can help people lose weight and reduce body fat while retaining muscle.
This latest study was short-term and only involved young, healthy volunteers. More research is needed to see how this might work for other populations, including people with obesity and older adults, and what the long-term effects might be.
“Although these results are restricted to a specific population of healthy, normal-weight adults, they can help nutrition scientists and healthcare providers better understand the real physiological effects of a high-protein total diet replacement in humans,” Dr. Carla Prado, professor of nutrition at the University of Alberta and principal investigator of the study, said in a press release.