Looking for a more effective way to drop pounds? Swap out carbs for protein. People who follow high-protein diets may have more success losing weight than those who eat less protein and more carbohydrates, says research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
We’d prefer a juicy steak instead.
Researchers pooled results from 24 past trials that put subjects on reduced-calorie, low-fat diets. Half of the subjects were assigned to a high-protein diet (on average, about 120 grams of protein per day), while the other half consumed a standard-protein diet (on average, about 67 grams per day).
Both diets had an average energy intake, for males and females, of 1,550 calories per day, says study author Thomas Wycherley, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow from the University of South Australia in Adelaide. But over an average of 12 weeks, people who followed the high-protein diet lost 1.7 pounds more than those in the standard-protein group.
You may lose more weight on a high-protein diet because your body spends more energy processing dietary protein than it does carbohydrates, Wycherley says.
Think of it this way: If you eat 100 calories of protein, your body will burn about 20 to 30 of those calories while processing the protein, says Wycherley. Compare that to 100 calories of carbs, and your body only burns about 5 to 10 calories.
Another reason for the weight loss may be because protein helps preserve muscle mass. And since muscle mass burns more calories than other types of mass, the additional calorie burn could result in a decrease in weight. (Looking for the best sources of protein for men? Try these 5 Protein-Packed Gym Snacks.)
So how much protein does the average guy need?
Men between the ages of 19 and 70 should shoot for 56 grams per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet most adults would benefit from eating more than the recommended daily intake, says Donald Layman, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois.
Here’s how to put it into perspective: Highly trained athletes thrive on 0.77 grams of daily protein per pound of body weight. That’s 139 grams for a 180-pound man, says Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., who studies exercise and nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Want to make it work for you? Step on a scale, be honest with yourself about your workout regimen, and check out the following chart.
And if you only hit the gym twice a week for around 30 minutes, you’re in the clear. According to Dr. Tarnopolsky, there’s no need to go beyond the recommended daily amount if you’re not highly active.