Think protein is only for gym rats who want to bulk up? Think again. Incorporating protein into your diet may support your attempts to lose weight. Here’s why:

Protein helps you eat less.

Emerging research shows that consuming adequate amounts of dietary protein can help with appetite control because it promotes the feeling of fullness and reduces the feeling of hunger when compared to carbohydrates or fats. Start your day off with a high-protein breakfast like scrambled eggs with veggies or a healthy Greek yogurt smoothie—it will provide you with fuel and help keep you from snacking on junk food, like you might if you had skipped breakfast. If you don’t have time to cook eggs or haven’t stocked the refrigerator, a protein bar or protein shake packed with high-quality protein is an easy alternative when you’re on the go.

Protein plus exercise helps your body composition.

A lack of protein can lead to excessive protein catabolism, or breakdown, and may limit your body’s ability to build lean muscle. Adequate protein in conjunction with exercise can help you gain lean muscle mass, which may help give you a metabolism boost. Eating a small amount of protein (5-10 grams) just before working out and consuming a moderate amount (15-20 grams) just after working out will provide amino acids your body needs to repair and build new muscle, which can lead to more satisfying exercise results.

So, how much do you need?

Aim for 25-30 grams at each major meal to see optimal results. Unsure of what to eat? A 4-oz. chicken breast, one cup of quinoa, five eggs or one cup of low-fat cottage cheese each provide approximately 30 grams of protein. If you’re looking for more convenient options, try a protein shake or protein bar to make sure you’re getting enough.

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