Ask Jenny: How Much Protein Should I Eat For Fat Loss?

“I’m a 36 year old female, I weigh 156 pounds, am relatively active, and I work out 5-6 times a week (a mixture of cardio and weights). Weight loss and toning up are my goals, and I would definitely like to lose some belly fat.  How much protein do I need a day – I’m so confused by all the conflicting advice out there!  Amanda, Boston

Hi Amanda, and thank you for your question. I receive questions about recommended protein intake every day, so you are not alone! Optimal protein is key for both fat burning and building lean muscle mass, and for that reason it is the first component of my ‘Protein, Fibre, Fat’ formula that I use in my Lean and Clean Program. 

Eating the optimal amount of protein is key for two aspects of improving body composition:

  • Protein is the most satiating nutrient and helps to balance your blood sugar and hunger hormones. Studies show that we will actually stay hungry (and keep searching for food) until our protein needs are met, so when my clients say they do not have any willpower I explain to them that this is actually just a natural biological response if they are not eating enough protein. By upping their protein intake I regulate their appetite, prevent cravings and binge eating, and stop them thinking about food all of the time.
  • Protein is key for keeping and building lean muscle mass, and lean muscle mass is the driver of our metabolism. One of the only ways we can boost our metabolism (how many calories we burn) is to put on more lean muscle mass.

How much protein to eat in a day:

To lower body fat whilst adding lean muscle tissue I recommend around 1g of protein per lb of ideal body weight a day. For example, I weigh around 115 to 120lbs, so I aim for 120g of protein per day. Studies show that 4 meals a day is beneficial for body composition, so I spread this between my 4 meals (or 3 meals and a snack) a day. This might not be an even spread, and its not perfectly calculated, but I am consistent with eating a good sized serving of protein at each sitting.

If Amanda wanted to lose 16lbs, then she would aim for 140g of protein a day, or 4 x 35g at each meal. Again, I don’t think it is necessary to always be weighing and measuring your food, just start by understanding what 30-35g of protein looks like (this really is the minimum amount per serving), then ‘eyeball’ from there. For example I know there is 30g or protein in my Breakfast Smoothie, and that a medium sized chicken breast, fillet or salmon or 100g of grass fed beef provides around 30g of protein.

When should I have protein post workout?

For maximum anabolic (muscle building) benefits, it’s best to consume around 30g of protein after strength training. If it’s a short run or HIIT session (30 minutes or less) then it’s fine to wait until your next meal.

My new Lean and Clean Program is designed to help you burn fat and build lean muscle, giving you food freedom and helping you live in a body you love. The next program starts on September 21st, and if you sign up before midnight on Monday 9/7 you’ll receive a free coaching session worth $195.