There is so much weight loss advice out there, what’s a dieter to do? As a Registered Dietitian, I am constantly bombarded with questions about what to eat to lose weight, and more specifically, how to get rid of that hard-to-lose belly fat.
There is no substitute for physical activity and a healthy diet when it comes to slimming down, but recent research published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition reveals that certain food choices can help you build lean muscle mass while losing inches off your mid-section.
Three groups of women were placed on the same exercise regimen (5 days cardio, 2 days strength-training/week) over the course of eighteen weeks. The varying factors within the three groups were the amount of protein and calcium from dairy products in their diets. After eighteen weeks, results showed that all three groups of women lost weight, however the group with the highest percentage of protein (30% of total calories) and dairy-protein (15% of total calories) in their diet, not only lost the most amount of visceral adipose tissue, aka belly fat, but also gained an average of 1.5lbs of lean muscle mass. The group with adequate percentage of protein (15% of total calories) and low amounts of dairy protein (2% of total calories) in their diet, still lost weight, but also lost lean muscle mass and less belly fat. The study concluded that along with diet and exercise, high protein and increased dairy product intake promotes more favorable body composition changes through greater total weight loss, along with greater loss in belly fat and lean mass gain.
How to Apply It
So, now that you know that protein and dairy can help you lose belly fat, read on to find out how to get started! First, it is important to choose a calorie appropriate diet for weight loose. To figure out your daily calorie needs, use the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation below:
- Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
- Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161.
Next, choose your activity factor according to your exercise level and multiply this number by your above results:
- 1.200 = sedentary (little or no exercise)
- 1.375 = lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
- 1.550 = moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week)
- 1.725 = very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week)
Last, subtract 500 from your results to get your total daily calories required for approximately 1lb of weight loss per week. For example, a thirty year old, 5’6” tall woman who weighs 140lbs and is lightly active would require approximately 1400 calories/day for a 1lb/week weight loss.
So you have already read that a diet compromised of about 30% protein with 15% coming from dairy will aid in gaining lean muscle mass and loosing belly fat, but what does that mean? Well, for most people it probably means increasing the amount of protein in your diet. Refer below to find the grams of protein you should aim to eat each day to reach 30% of your total calories.
- 1200 calories:90g PRO
- 1400 calories:105g PRO
- 1600 calories:120g PRO
- 1800 calories: 135g PRO
- 2,000 calories:150g PRO
- 2,200 calories:165g PRO
- 2,400 calories:180g PRO
Here are a few ways healthy ways to get protein in your diet:
- Chicken breast(skinless): 30g/4ounces
- Salmon: 17g/3ounces
- Tofu: 20g/cup
- Lentils: 18g/cup (cooked)
- Whey protein powder: 25g/30g scoop
- Turkey (skinless, light meat): 34g/4ounces
- Quinoa: 8g/cup (cooked)
- Halibut: 18g/3ounces
- Tuna, canned: 22g/3ounces
- Egg: 6g/medium egg
Now that you know your daily protein needs, remember that you should try to get about half of your protein from dairy. Here are a few tasty, protein-packed dairy foods that fit into a well-balanced diet for weight loss:
- Low-fat Greek yogurt: 24g/cup
- Skim or Low-fat milk or soy milk: 8g/cup
- Low-fat cottage cheese: 30g/cup
- Low-fat cheddar cheese: 7g/ounce or slice
Don’t forget to pair your diet with a mix of aerobic and weight-bearing exercise and you’ll be on the path to a slimmer you in no time!