The Protein Prescription

Why protein is a potent weight-loss weapon and key to a slimmer bod - and how to get your daily dose.

You'd think that if the low-carb craze taught us anything, it's the importance of protein. Recently the diet pendulum has swung in favor of counting calories-an effective weight-loss tool, ut not one that always prioritizes protein. "Many women perceive foods that are rich in protein as being high in fat calories. This isn't the case, but diehard counters know that most proteins will cost you a few more calories than fruits and veggies will. Your diet needs all three macros and protein is one of the most important.

The Power Of Protein

High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize and use which means you burn more calories processing them. Protein starts to break down in your stomach and make you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. The cumulative effect has benefits for anyone who is watching her weight.

Pump It Up

Experts advise eating between .54 and 1 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. That's 76 to 140 grams of protein a day for a 140 pound woman. Skew on the high end if you're very active and on the low end if you'r trying to lose weight. But if both apply, shoot for an amount in the middle around 130 grams.

Even more important; aim to get at least 30 of those grams at breakfast. (That's roughly the amount you'll get from two eggs and a cup of cottage cheese.) After fasting all night, your body is running on empty and may start drawing from muscle tissue for fuel if you don't replenish its protein stores first thing in the morning.

All Proteins Are Not Equal

While nuts, whole grains and veggies technically don't count, they don't contain all nine amino acids your body needs to build lean muscle. Those proteins that do are know as complete proteins and are found in animal products. Your best bets are skinless white chicken or turkey, seafood, low-fat dairy, pork tenderloin and filet mignon. All of these foods have one to three grams of fat in a single 50- calorie serving.

The beauty of protein is that with so many tasty options, getting your daily dose is a simple pleasure.

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