Can Eating a High-Protein Diet Increase Your Metabolism?

Load up on protein, and you'll lose weight—right? Unfortunately, it may not be that simple: Eating more protein might not necessarily influence the number on the scale, but it will go a long way toward ensuring the weight you do carry is muscle, not fat, according to a new study presented last week at the Obesity Society Annual Meeting in Boston.

To determine how protein intake influences metabolism, researchers with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center put 16 healthy adults on high-calorie diets that were composed of different amounts of protein (five percent, 15 percent, and 25 percent) for eight weeks. All of the participants ate 40 percent more calories than they needed to maintain their weight, and all gained similar amounts of weight.

But—get ready for a huge silver lining—those who noshed on normal- and high- protein diets (15 and 25 percent, respectively) stored 45 percent of the excess calories as muscle, while those on the low-protein diet (five percent) stored 95 percent of the excess calories as fat.

MORE: 7 High-Protein Snacks That Can Help You Lose Weight

It's unclear exactly how protein changes the way the body stores calories, but this study suggests that protein may have a huge impact on your body-fat percentage. And since increasing muscle mass can boost metabolism, it stands to reason that eating more protein may help rev yours up.

MORE: 4 Myths About Your Metabolism

So how much protein should you be eating regularly? The study results suggest that for a supercharged metabolism, between 25 percent and 45 percent of your calories should come from protein. (Each gram of protein contains four calories.) If you're on a 2,000-calorie diet, that comes out to about 125 and 225 grams of protein a day, which is similar to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' recommendation to consume 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein after exercising and every four hours while you're awake to increase your muscle growth.

MORE: 5 Foods with More Protein Than an Egg


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