Forget the rice cakes. If you want to lose weight, lean protein — and plenty of it — is your biggest ally. When raised humanely and naturally, healthy sources of lean animal protein, such as cage-free eggs and chicken and grass-fed beef and bison, help stoke your fat-burning fires and boost your metabolism. How? By helping you retain lean muscle mass, key to burning fat. I know it sounds too good to be true, but there’s a ton of good science to back it up.
1. Lean protein blasts belly fat. Trimming extra pounds off your waist isn’t just about vanity; it’s important to your health since “visceral fat” is linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, precursors to diabetes. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants reached their lowest waist-to-hip ratio by eating a high-protein diet, indicating that lean protein reduces stomach fat. A study presented at the European Congress of Obesity found that overweight people were not only able to maintain their weight loss by following a high-protein diet but they also retained their muscle and slimmed their waists.
2. Lean protein makes fat-burning muscle. Retaining muscle mass is important for long-term weight control because muscle burns off more calories than stored fat. A study published in Obesity found that eating more than 30% of daily calories as lean protein helps you lose weight while retaining muscle. Also, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated that eating a diet high in lean protein helps you lose that weight EVEN WHILE YOU SLEEP because it increases your overall metabolism.
3. Lean protein fills you up not out. Satiety — the feeling of being full and satisfied — helps you stop eating so you don’t keep packing on calories you don’t need. Researchers at Purdue University found that eating a high-protein diet boosted satiety and helped reduce appetite. That’s why the kind of balanced meal your grandparents once ate, consisting of lean meat, a veggie, and a small portion of carbs, makes you feel contentedly full and mentally calm.
4. Breakfast on lean protein every day for weight loss. Listen up all you breakfast skippers! Researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that participants who breakfasted on two eggs instead of a plain bagel five times a week over eight weeks lost 65% more weight than the bagel-eaters and reduced their waistlines by 83%! Because a high-protein breakfast is so satisfying, it sets you up for balanced eating throughout the day. In fact, a study conducted by the Rochester Center for Obesity in America found that eating eggs for breakfast rather than toast helped limit calorie intake for the next 36 hours by more than 400 calories because the egg-eaters felt satisfied longer and ate less for lunch.
5. Happy chickens, happy humans. Unlike factory-farmed eggs, laid by chickens in indoor cages, truly free-range chickens have access to pastureland and a natural diet of grass and bugs. According to report published in Mother Earth News, free-range poultry lay eggs with one-third less cholesterol, one-quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, twice the omega-3s, three times the vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene than commercial eggs. Although eating eggs raw preserves all their nutrients, it’s definitely not appealing. Instead, try soft-boiled, poached, over-easy or lightly scrambled eggs to retain all the nutritional benefits in the egg.