When it comes to dieting for weight loss, eliminating sugar, processed food, and other unhealthy junk food is only part of the equation. Just as important, you need to add certain types of nutrients that are proven to boost satiety (feelings of fullness) and, as a result, enhance weight loss.
Let me tell you a little secret. Even I, the author of these newsletters and several diet books, gain some weight (usually 5-8 pounds) in the winter. However, come this time of year, it has to go! I’m ready for all the activities of summer, including the beach.
In previous letters, I’ve discussed the tremendous benefits of two macronutrients in particular—protein and fiber. While I always encourage you to get these in your diet, I personally find that in my busy schedule, it is not always possible. So when I get motivated to lose weight, as I am now, I begin to supplement my diet with fiber and protein to ensure that I get enough to keep me full, satisfied, and on the right path. And if I stay off the sugar, processed, and junk food roller coaster, and at the same time increase my fiber and protein consumption, I begin to very naturally and efficiently lose weight. Here is what the science says.
Show Me the Whey
Protein inhibits receptors that tell your brain that you’re still hungry and should eat more. Additionally, protein stimulates the production of hormones that prevents the release of ghrelin, another hormone that sends out the “I’m hungry” message. Both of these mechanisms promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction, preventing overeating.
In general, most studies show that people interested in weight loss should be getting 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 150 x 0.7, for a total of 105 grams of protein per day.
This may sound like a lot, but you do get a pretty good share through diet. Dairy, eggs, fish, and lean meats are great food sources. A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has 18 grams, a 4-ounce piece of grilled chicken contains about 36 grams, and a 4-ounce piece of cooked salmon about has 29 grams.
However, to ensure that I easily get enough protein every day without worrying about portion sizes, I use whey protein.
Whey is one of the two proteins found in cow’s milk. (Casein is the other.) You may connect whey protein to bodybuilding or weightlifting due to its ability to increase muscle mass. But whey’s benefits extend far beyond that. In fact, it has been shown to reduce hunger so that you naturally eat less, and it increases thermogenesis (your body’s natural calorie burning processes).
A meta-analysis (a study of many studies) published in 2014 examined the effect of whey protein, with or without resistance exercise, on body weight and composition. Fourteen clinical trials were included, for a total of 626 participants. The researchers came to the conclusion that, “the current body of literature supports the use of whey protein, either as a supplement combined with resistance exercise or as part of a weight loss or weight maintenance diet, to improve body composition parameters.”
Whey is so easy to use. Simply sprinkle it on top of oatmeal or yogurt or add a scoop or two into a smoothie or breakfast shake.
I’ve discussed the importance of fiber for boosting satiety and weight loss in the past. I often talk about soluble and insoluble fiber, and how it is important to get enough soluble fiber to make the fiber experience comfortable. I actually use an oligo fructose-enriched inulin (OFS), which is a little different than typical fiber. It’s actually a prebiotic fiber from the chicory root. Chicory is often used as a flavoring in coffees and teas, it’s an excellent source of dietary fiber, and it triggers hormones that signal satiety.
You’ve probably heard of probiotics—the beneficial bacteria that exist in your gut and throughout the rest of your body. Well, prebiotics are naturally occurring carbohydrates that promote the growth of probiotics. Essentially, they’re “food” for the good bugs. In the gut, prebiotics get fermented into substances that improve survival of existing bacteria and also stimulate the growth of even more probiotics.
In a small pilot study, “oligo fructose treatment increases satiety following breakfast and dinner, reduces hunger and prospective food consumption following dinner.”
Another study of 48 overweight or obese adults showed that supplementation with 21 grams of OFS for 12 weeks resulted in a reduction in body weight. The researchers concluded that, “Independent of other lifestyle changes, oligo fructose supplementation has the potential to promote weight loss and improve glucose regulation in overweight adults.”
As far as supplements are concerned, OFS and whey protein, when taken properly, have enough high-quality research to support their safety and effectiveness that I take them myself, especially this time of the year.
Whey is readily available at most supplement retailers, health food stores, or even grocery stores. (Just make sure you buy a brand that does not contain sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.) Look for OFS online, or better yet, buy a product geared toward weight loss that combines OFS and whey protein.
- Matsuyama T, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Jun;16(6):1338-48.
- Miller PE, et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):163-75.
- Cani PD, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;60(5):567-72.
- Parnell JA and Reimer RA. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1751-9.