OC4 coach Jen Widerstrom explains how protein and fat work together to help you shed excess weight.

Want to lose weight? Eat more protein.

Science tells us that protein is a natural fat burner. According to the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers showed that high-protein meals increase the metabolism of overweight people. That’s because of protein’s higher thermic effect of food (TEF) than carbohydrates.

What Is TEF?

Your body is burning calories all the time, including during digestion. The thermic effect of food, also known as thermogenesis, is the amount of energy required to process and digest the food you consume. Some foods take more energy to break down and digest than others. Heavily processed carbs are easy to digest. Protein — not so much.

Healthy fats like nuts, seeds and oils such as avocado, olive and hemp also boast a higher TEF.

The energy used to digest protein, when ingested alone, comes from stored fat that is broken down and metabolized so it can be used for fuel. So you can use food along with exercise to transform your body into an efficient fat-burning machine.

Timing Macros for Optimal Fat Burning

When it comes to protein and carbs, you can have both — just not at the same time! For example, if you’re eating a slice of peanut butter toast, your body will automatically start digesting the quick-burning carbs from the toast before the protein from the peanuts. You would be better off just eating a handful of peanuts or a half of an avocado — foods that contain both protein and healthy fat.

Slow-digesting carbs like healthy whole grains and sweet potatoes should be eaten before training.

Overall, aim to prioritize healthy fats and proteins over carbs. Protein has also been shown to curb sugar cravings and keep you fuller longer — yet another reason to eat more at every meal!

Grilled Greek Chicken With Cucumber-Tomato Salad

This recipe from Laura’s Lean features healthy protein (chicken) and fat (olives) to rev up your metabolism. Add an olive-oil-based dressing for extra healthy fat.

Photo Credit: Laura’s Lean

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 Laura’s Lean chicken breasts (5 oz per chicken breast)

½ tsp dried oregano

2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

2 cups seedless cucumber, cubed

½ red onion, sliced

5/16 cup Kalamata olives, halved

juice and zest of 1 lemon

salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation:

Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan over medium heat.

In a large bowl, combine chicken breasts, oregano, rosemary, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate while you make the salad, up to 20 minutes.

In another large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place chicken breasts on grill and cook until no longer pink in the middle, about 7 minutes per side. Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes, then serve alongside salad.

Sort out the truth from the hype when it comes to protein. Oxygen Challenge 4 coach Jen Widerstrom shares the facts in her Truth About Protein blog series.

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OC4 coach Jen Widerstrom explains the difference between high- and low-quality protein.

From bars to powders to drinks and more, there’s a lot of functional protein-packed products out there. So how do you pick the best option to fit your nutritional needs?

It’s all about choosing high-quality protein.

If you consume low-grade protein that has been synthesized or even altered through hormones and antibiotics, it changes your body’s ability to recognize and absorb the protein, rendering it less effective. That’s why it’s important to know exactly where your protein source comes from.

Pay Attention to Labels

Don’t be fooled just because a snack bar or drink contains protein. Often, you’ll see products touting their servings of protein in an attempt to appeal to consumers. The catch? In order to consume that promised protein, you’ll also have to consume every other, potentially harmful, ingredient in the product – like added sugar and artificial ingredients.

So always ask yourself: Is this worth it? If not, pass.

Ultimately, your body craves real food. More specifically, it craves one-ingredient foods, meaning it takes you one word to list the ingredients within that item. For instance, chicken is a one-ingredient food. Almonds are also a one-ingredient food. That laboratory-designed protein drink is not a one-ingredient food. I promise you that your body will always respond, heal and feel better when you give it whole, natural foods.

Types of High-Quality Protein

Fish, especially salmon, and green algae are my go-to healthy proteins. Both are easy to digest, contain quality fat and are easy to integrate into most nutrition plans. When it comes to your meat sources, always look for antibiotic- and hormone-free brands that also live up to the ethical standard on the treatment of animals. remains my all-time favorite.

See also 10 Chicken-Free Muscle-Building Meals.

When supplementing with powders or bars, be sure to review the product’s ingredient list, keeping an eye out for any items you cannot pronounce. This is a red flag. If you don’t recognize what you’re eating, neither will your body. You are the first and best line of defense for what goes into your system. So always pay attention.

Burger Bowl

This clean, whole-food recipe from my book Diet Right for Your Personality Type features high-quality lean ground beef or turkey.

Photo Credit: Laura’s Lean

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 oz 90% lean ground beef or 93% lean ground turkey
  • 3 to 4 cups romaine and/or spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 slice cheese (any type)
  • 1 tomato slice
  • 1 dill pickle, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped onions
  • handful fresh mushrooms
  • vegetable oil cooking spray

Preparation:

Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Brown meat in skillet over medium-high heat until done. Drain. Place lettuce leaves on a plate or in a bowl. Top with meat, cheese, tomato, pickle, mushrooms and onions. Serve.

Sort out the truth from the hype when it comes to protein. Oxygen Challenge 4 coach Jen Widerstrom shares the facts in her Truth About Protein blog series.

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OC4 coach Jen Widerstrom explains how protein helps fuel fat-blasting workouts to achieve maximum results.

Let’s break it down. You probably already know that protein is one of your key macronutrients, along with fat and carbs. You need an ideal ratio of all three to fuel your body and maintain a healthy metabolism.

But what role does protein play in your diet?

What Protein Doesn’t Do

First things first. When it comes to fuel, your body runs more on carbohydrates and fats during your workouts than protein. Carbs are the key energy suppliers and can amplify the intensity of your workouts and help you go longer and harder.

See also “Make Your Carbs Count.”

Fat also supplies energy, helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, and protects your organs from injury. Essential fatty acids aid in hormone production and regulation.

So Why Do We Need Protein?

Protein is critical to the muscular skeletal rebuilding process. Your body uses protein to create every cell in your body, to repair and build tissue, to keep your hair and nails strong and healthy, and to create body chemicals like enzymes and hormones that can regulate your mood and metabolism.

Consuming sufficient protein is important in helping your body adapt to various training stimulants for strength development, but it’s especially crucial during demanding aerobic endurance sports, such as triathlons or marathons. Translation: If you’re an endurance athlete, you need to make sure you don’t short your protein!

Protein is also super low in calories, with only 4 calories per gram. So don’t be stingy! Be sure to add a sufficient amount to every meal, whether it’s in the form of meat, nuts, beans, whole grains or protein powder.

Want a protein-rich meal packed with nutrients and flavor — with a balance of macros to boot? Try this recipe from my book Diet Right for Your Personality Type!

Gluten-Free Green Pancakes

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup protein powder
  • ½ cup brown rice powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • vegetable oil cooking spray

Instructions:

Place all ingredients except cooking spray in a blender and pulse until well-incorporated. Pour 4 to 5 tablespoons batter onto a lightly oil-sprayed pan or griddle over medium-low heat so pancakes don’t burn but are still able to cook. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. When pancakes begin to bubble, gently flip them over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve.

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