When it comes to losing weight, there's a long-standing adage that's always relevant: abs are made in the kitchen. You can do a four-week HIIT training plan and lots of running in an attempt to shed unwanted pounds and lose weight fast, but if your diet is working against you, you'll be fighting an uphill battle.
To start adjusting your diet to help you lose weight, you'll want to look at simple food swaps backed by common sense and good diet. And one of the best ways to start is by eating more protein.
- NEW: This gentle 45-minute pilates workout will make you flexible
- PLUS: Slow-cooked dinners could be better for you than grilling
Protein is well-known as one of the building blocks of muscle. Composed of amino acids that help us build up muscle mass, protein is commonly found in animal and dairy products in addition to pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds.
It's essential to build a little muscle if you're looking to lose weight, which might seem counterintuitive as muscle weighs more than fat. However, a body with more muscle is fitter, stronger, able to exercise for longer periods and more resistant to the ravages of time.
As you age, you naturally lose your muscle mass as it undergoes a process called atrophy, which causes it to waste away, but a study from the University of Birmingham found muscle mass did not undergo atrophy in older adults who exercised regularly.
When it comes to weight loss, protein goes one step further: it not only makes you healthier, but actually suppresses your appetite. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of a high-protein breakfast on the secretion of ghrelin (a chemical known as the "hunger hormone") in the body. It was found a high-protein meal suppresses this hormone better than a breakfast high in carbohydrates.
By swapping out some carbohydrates for additional sources of protein, you're likely to be reaching for snacks a lot less in the hours after the meal. Another study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition this time, found "there is convincing evidence that a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis and satiety compared to diets of lower protein content".
Protein both helps you build muscle and reduces your appetite simultaneously, making it the essential helper you need to lose weight fast.
However, just be careful where you're getting your protein from, as too much red and processed meat can be very bad for you. Red meats cooked at a high heat have been found to increase AGC levels in your blood, which can cause inflammation. Too much processed meat, like burgers and sausages, have also been linked to various cancers.
There are lots of benefits in red meat, like high-quality protein, plenty of healthy fats and lots of iron, but prioritising white meat like poultry, fish and vegetarian options is a healthy long-term strategy.