Cashews piled on table to represent protein that may be good for weight loss

Is Protein Good for Weight Loss?

Written on August 28, 2023 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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How are you supposed to know which diet is right for you? There are almost as many weight-loss diets as there are foods to choose from. The options are overwhelming when trying to shed some extra pounds. Did you know that shifting the mix of foods on your plate might help nudge the numbers on the scale in the direction you want? Increasing your daily intake of protein may be a small change that is good for weight loss.

What Is Protein?

Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body. They are building blocks—found in hair, skin, bone, and muscle. There are many different types of proteins. Some proteins we eat, which are called dietary proteins. Other kinds of proteins found in your body are also essential for [1]:

  • Making antibodies and immune system health
  • Hormonal balance and well-being (hormones are made from proteins)
  • A healthy metabolism

Over 20 amino acids are proteins' building blocks.[2] Because the human body cannot make amino acids from scratch, we need to consume those amino acids by eating dietary proteins. Dietary proteins include meat, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, and seeds.

What About Macronutrients and Micronutrients?

Proteins are called macronutrients because they are bigger than smaller micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins like calcium, Vitamin D, and iron.[3] Your body needs both micronutrients and macronutrients to function and stay healthy. The two other types of macronutrients are carbohydrates and fats. You can not get macronutrients from taking a multivitamin.

Some weight loss and dietary research indicate that the mixture of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) on your plate can play a role in maintaining a healthy weight over the long run.[4] This is why you may have heard people talking about “counting macros”—they are counting macronutrients (in milligrams and grams) to make sure they are not consuming too many calories and meeting their daily nutritional requirements.[3] However, counting macros is just a different version of counting calories. Some better-known diets, such as the keto diet and the paleo diet, apply different formulas to the mix of macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates).

Is Protein Good for Weight Loss?

Generally speaking, yes. Researchers have several theories about why eating more protein can be a part of a healthy weight maintenance plan.[5] These theories (not all proven yet by clinical studies in humans) are that [5,6,7,8,9]:

  1. The amount of protein you eat can impact hormones (the chemical messengers) potentially involved in weight regulation
  2. Eating protein at each meal helps you feel fuller faster (called satiety), so you tend to eat less if you have more protein
  3. If you eat more protein, you consume fewer calories
  4. Eating more protein helps you build, maintain, and preserve lean body mass
  5. Lean muscle mass burns calories more efficiently with physical activity, so you store less fat the more muscle you have
  6. A higher protein diet can prevent weight regain after successful dieting and weight loss

How Much Protein Should You Eat to Lose Weight?

Nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, and scientists can’t quite agree on the answer to that question. It is not a one-size-fits-all answer, either. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get at least 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.[2] You can do the math for your own body weight, but it works out to about:

  • 50 grams of protein each day for a 140-pound person
  • 70 grams of protein each day for a 200-pound person

The National Academy of Medicine sets a wide range for acceptable protein intake—anywhere from 10 to 35% of total calorie intake per day.[2] Usually, a high-protein diet refers to an increased protein intake above 30% of the total daily calories or 1 to 1.2 g/kg of the ideal body weight per day.[7]

Unfortunately, studies looking at protein-heavy diets do not show much success in terms of large long-term weight loss maintenance. Reviews of multiple diets also show that any weight lost as a result of adjusting macronutrients and increasing protein is mostly regained by 12 months.[7–9] Weight loss following higher-protein diets does provide some moderate weight loss in the first six months of following the diet.[5,7] Encouragingly, following a higher protein diet over the long term also seems to protect against weight regain (also known as weight cycling).[5]

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

Can You Eat Too Much Protein?

Yes. The ideal amount of protein you should eat for healthy weight maintenance depends upon your age, how much lean muscle you have, your overall health, and your activity level. These factors can change over your lifetime, even month to month or year to year.

Experts agree that the average person (not an elite athlete or a bodybuilder) should not consume more than 2 g of protein per kilogram of weight. That would be about 125 grams/day for a 140-pound person.[10] Some of the possible health risks of too much dietary protein are [7,10]:

  • Kidney stones
  • Higher cholesterol levels if you eat large amounts of red meat or high-fat dairy as your protein sources
  • Increased risk for Type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk for heart disease
  • Increased risk for colon cancer

Checking in regularly with a healthcare professional specializing in nutrition and weight loss, through telehealth or in person, can help you avoid some of the health hazards of eating too much protein. In addition, telehealth and regular healthcare visits have been shown to be helpful in obesity treatment and long-term weight loss success.[11]

What Are Good Sources of Lean Protein?

Foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt, and tofu provide 4 calories per gram of protein and are, therefore, considered lean protein sources.[6] For weight loss, you want to limit those dietary proteins that are high in sugar and saturated fats, such as red meat and cheese. Plant-based proteins like those found in lentils, beans, quinoa, and soy are healthier for you and for the planet.[2]

Eating healthy protein sources like beans, nuts, fish, or poultry in place of red meat and processed meat can lower the risk of several diseases, such as heart disease and many cancers.[2] However, be sure to check food package labels for added sodium, sugar, and saturated fat that may come along with whatever protein you are considering.

Make Dietary Proteins a Part of Your Health and Weight Management Plan

Eating a balanced diet with plenty of lean proteins can be a part of your healthy nutrition and weight management plan. Whether you feel like counting macros and tabulating grams of protein for each meal, merely making sure you have some lean protein with every snack and meal may help you have more energy and be less hungry. Counting macros and micros is not for everyone, just like there is no one perfect diet or meal plan for every person. Finding the right balance between nutrition and weight management is tricky, but making sure to have enough of the right kinds of proteins in your diet might just help you find that healthy balance sooner.

Consult With a Healthcare Provider for Weight Management Support

Studies show that the key to successful long-term weight loss is finding a type of eating plan that you can make a regular habit, not a short-term, quick fix.[7,12] When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Whichever diet, food plan, or protein percentage you ultimately choose, your plan has to be accessible, affordable, enjoyable, healthy, and sustainable. That is a long list to figure out all on your own.

Increase your chances for success by bringing in the support of an expert. You wouldn’t try to fix your own car (unless you happen to be a car mechanic), so why would you try to figure out a weight loss plan on your own? Consulting with a healthcare provider, such as telehealth providers accessed via our comprehensive online weight loss support option, can help you:

  1. Identify your weight loss goals
  2. Ensure you are eating a healthy and well-balanced diet
  3. Correct any nutritional deficiencies and recommend mineral or vitamin supplements to optimize health
  4. Discuss whether you may be a candidate for medical weight loss treatment with GLP-1 medications
  5. Test hormones that may be related to unexpected changes in weight and energy (cortisol, testosterone, and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) with the Metabolism Test

With Everlywell’s affordable, accessible, and private Weight Care+ Program, you can get your weight loss down to a science, with or without counting those grams of protein!

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  1. What are proteins and what do they do? MedlinePlus. Published March 26, 2021. Accessed May 3, 2022.
  2. Proteins. The Nutrition Source. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  3. What are macronutrients and micronutrients? The Cleveland Clinic. Published October 5, 2022. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  4. Smith JD, Hou T, Ludwig DS, Rimm EB, Willett W, Hu FB, Mozaffarian D. Changes in intake of protein foods, carbohydrate amount and quality, and long-term weight change: results from 3 prospective cohorts. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015;10(6):1212-24.
  5. Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30;29(3):166-173. doi: 10.7570/jomes20028. PMID: 32699189; PMCID: PMC7539343.
  6. Four ways protein can help you shed pounds. Cleveland Clinic. Published October 28, 2022. Accessed May 3, 2022.
  7. Kim JY. Optimal diet strategies for weight loss and weight loss maintenance. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2021;30(1):20-31. doi:10.7570/jomes20065.
  8. Yannakoulia M, Poulimeneas D, Mamalaki E, Anastasiou CA. Dietary modifications for weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Metabolism. 2019;92:153-162. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2019.01.001
  9. Ge L, Sadeghirad B, Ball GDC, et al. Comparison of dietary macronutrient patterns of 14 popular named dietary programmes for weight and cardiovascular risk factor reduction in adults: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised trials [published correction appears in BMJ. 2020 Aug 5;370:m3095]. BMJ. 2020;369:m696. Published 2020 Apr 1. doi:10.1136/bmj.m696
  10. When it comes to protein, how much is too much? Harvard Health Review. Published March 30, 2020. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  11. Kahan S, Look M, Fitch A. The benefit of telemedicine in obesity care. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2022;30(3):577-586. doi: 10.1002/oby.23382.
  12. Fruh SM. Obesity: Risk factors, complications, and strategies for sustainable long-term weight management. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2017;29(S1):S3-S14. doi:10.1002/2327-6924.12510
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