Essentially, thermogenesis is the heat generated by the body during the processes of digestion and metabolism, explains Dr John Briffa, author of Escape the Diet Trap. When we eat protein it is broken down into

constituents called amino acids’, which can then be reassembled to form protein. It has been estimated that when amino acids are converted to protein and then back again into amino acids, more than a quarter of the energy originally contained in the amino acids is lost, including as heat. Carbohydrate and fat can also cycle’ in this way, but the energy dissipated is much less than with protein. 

But too little protein in your diet makes weight loss extremely difficult.

There’s emerging evidence that if you do undereat protein you’re going to overeat carbohydrates and fat, says Dr Barclay. That’s because protein is more satiating than the other macronutrients. 

On the other hand, too much protein can be harmful.

Protein becomes toxic when you go above 35 per cent of your kilojoules, even with bodywork, says Dr Barclay. Although a lot of hardcore bodybuilders push the threshold with protein shakes and the like. 

Low-carb dieters tend to have other problems -consuming enough protein in the short term as well as maintaining the original diet for the long term.

On a low-carb diet the first thing you lose is fluid and your carbohydrate stores, says Melanie McGrice, dietitian and director of Nutrition Plus. Typically the average person has around half a kilo of carbohydrate stores, stored as glycogen. After that it’s very important that you’re meeting your protein requirement not only to maintain muscle but also because you’re now using your protein as your kilojoule source.

I see people really restrict themselves, say, on a soup diet, and yes, they’re cutting out carbs but they’re severely restricting protein intake as well, so you’re losing muscle faster than you’re losing fat. 


Oats is a good source of protein. Protein is used to build, repair

Lean protein has a high thermogenic effect, which means it will

Lean meats Protein has a high thermogenic effect: You burn about 30%

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