People always say, “I want to lose weight,” but what they really mean is, “I want to lose fat.” Scales don’t always tell the entire story. You can lose 10 pounds of scale weight and none of it be fat.

If you want to have toned muscles and an athletic look, your goal is fat loss, not weight loss. The secret to losing fat and not muscle is to prioritize protein.

When you prioritize protein, you maintain muscle and a healthy metabolism. By having more muscle on you, you burn more calories throughout the day.  If your calories are low and protein is low, you can lose muscle, which slows down your metabolism and will cause you to gain fat while eating more or less the same amount. 

Figure Protein Intake

To gain muscle, you must eat both enough protein and calories. Aim for .7-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Protein is made up of amino acids and is essential for muscle growth. One great way to get in protein is to plan your meals ahead of time with protein in mind. 

Track Protein Intake

Download an app like Myfitnesspal, Loseit, Fitbit or Noom to track your protein intake.

Consume Protein Throughout the Day

One great way to set up a meal plan would be to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack with equal amounts of protein totaling up to your requirement. For example, a 120-pound person aiming for 120g protein would aim for 30g of protein at each meal. Another easy way to break up protein intake is to have three meals with two smaller snacks. Your body can only breakdown so much protein at a time so it’s important to space out your meals.

Breakfast Protein Options

Common breakfast proteins include egg whites, eggs, yogurt, sausages and sandwich meat. 

Lunch and Dinner Protein Options

Lunch and dinner protein options include chicken, fish, beef, turkey, tempeh and tofu. Keep in mind there are non-meat protein options that can help increase protein at each meal like beans, lentils, quinoa, rice and vegetables.

Snacks High in Protein

Protein snacks like protein bars, trail mix, protein chips, jerky, cottage cheese, and protein shakes are easy to consume during the day.

Remember, if you are losing weight but not inches off your waist, that could be a sign you’re losing muscle and not fat which means your protein intake should be higher.

By Nico Abaya