Eat high-quality protein at every meal to lose visceral belly fat and be healthy. Research shows that eating high-quality protein that is defined as at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) multiple times a day provides favorable changes in body composition. Greater EAA and protein intake will help you lose visceral belly fat, increase lean mass, and maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis after training—all good stuff!
A new study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism analyzed how the quality and the amount of protein eaten daily relates to measurements of visceral abdominal fat in a group of young volunteers. Researchers calculated the average total EAA intake, total dietary protein, and the number of times during the day that participants reached the EAA “threshold”—the 10 gram amount of EAAs that is known to maximally stimulate protein synthesis and support body composition. They also measured carb and fat intake, and analyzed the diet in relation to visceral belly fat.
Results showed that the quality of protein consumed in a 24-hour period was inversely related with visceral belly fat—the participants that ate more EAA-filled protein were leaner. The number of times they reached the EAA threshold was also significant, indicating that for best energy burning results, you need to eat high-quality protein throughout the day.
The key to all this is to make sure that the protein you eat is of the highest quality and contains the most EAAs possible. Animal-derived protein—beef, fish, poultry, milk, and eggs—contain a better quality protein because they have more EAAs per gram of protein. You get more bang for your calorie buck by eating high-quality protein, whereas if you get most of your protein from lower quality sources (less EAAs per gram of protein), you will have to eat more calories to get the same overall EAA intake. This is especially relevant for people who are restricting total energy, or for anyone who is interested in optimal body composition and muscle building.
Another option to boost EAA intake is to take EAAs in capsule form or supplement with whey protein. For example, a 25-gram dose of whey provides about 10 grams of EAAs. Supplementing with EAAs or whey is convenient for anyone who wants to boost their quality protein intake multiple times during the day. It’s a no-brainer for vegetarians and vegans who eat a lower quality protein.
Take away from this study a commitment to eating high-quality protein with at least 10 grams of EAAs three to five times a day. This will help you increase your lean mass percentage, which will give you a higher resting energy expenditure. Increasing lean mass is an easy way to increase your total caloric needs. More muscle is also great for increasing the amount of fat your body burns at rest since the majority of energy used to provide ATP for protein synthesis comes from fat.
Loenneke, J., Wilson, J., et al. Quality of Protein Intake is Inversely Related with Abdominal Fat. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. 9(5).