Protein Power For Weight Loss

January 15, 2024

Today our dietitians are sharing information about the powerhouse nutrient for weight loss: protein! We’ll share why protein is important, how much protein you need for your weight loss goals, what sources of protein to choose from, and ideas on how to incorporate protein into your meals and snacks.

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MELANIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I'm Melanie Beasley and I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. I have over 30 years of experience working with a variety of clients and I've been a dietitian at a prison. I've been a dietitian in the military, in the Navy, and in various hospitals and clinics: tells you how long I've been doing this job.

Currently, however, my favorite job is sharing nutrition information on this podcast and working one on one with clients who have health challenges such as cancer, osteoporosis, pain, inflammation, gut issues. I speak to these health challenges from a clinical point of view and from my own personal experience, as I have had my own health struggles.

And real food nutrition has made a tremendous difference in my own health recovery, so I like to share that with my clients. I do understand what works and what doesn't work and what works is eating real foods. Now if you're listening to this podcast because you want to lose weight, we asked the perfect cohost to tell you what worked for her and how it changed her life and her career choice.

Our focus today is on the power of protein and weight loss. But let me introduce Brandy Buro, who's lost 50 pounds as a teenager and has maintained those good numbers on the scale for the past 20 years. Congratulations.

BRANDY: Yes, thank you.

Overview of Brandy’s weight loss success story

MELANIE: Brandy, tell us a little bit about your weight loss success story.

BRANDY: Well, I'm happy to, and I'm really excited to be here today to share my story and hopefully it inspires some of our listeners out there. And it is a true story. My health and wellness journey started when I was about 13 years old.

MELANIE: Oh gosh. So young. That's so hard.

BRANDY: Yeah. I mean, it was tough, but I mean, ultimately it did change the entire course of my life and it led to about a 50-pound weight loss.


BRANDY: Yeah. Yeah; as a teenager. For me, I never really thought that that would be my story because I just thought I was destined to be overweight for my whole life. You know?

MELANIE: Yeah. This is who I am now.

BRANDY: Right. This is who I am. Most everybody in my immediate family was overweight. I looked like my family and I just remember the day my brother told me, this is our genetic makeup. It's in our genes to be fat and there's really nothing you can do about it. This is how it is. So that, that was really discouraging, as a young person, but at the same time, it really didn't feel good to be the heaviest kid in class.

MELANIE: You probably didn't feel comfortable emotionally or physically.

BRANDY: No, no, I was really uncomfortable and, at that age, your preteen years, you're just really trying to fit in. You're just trying to be like everybody else.

MELANIE: Blend, blend. You just want to blend and not be different.

BRANDY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just kind of, you know, get in on all the trends, do what your friends are doing. And that was not my story. So I was desperate to change, you know, I was desperate to change my story if I could. And growing up in a rural community, I grew up on a farm in North Dakota, there wasn't a lot of support to help me do what I was trying to do.

And I think a lot of people think, well, you lived on a farm. You must've had access to lots of fresh foods, fresh air, you know, lots of opportunities to get outside, right? But really that was not the case for me. My household was very rich in processed foods, actually. Both of my parents worked, you know, hardworking farm family. We, they didn't really have a lot of time to…

MELANIE: Cook the real food.

BRANDY: …make every single meal for me. So we had tons of convenience foods.

MELANIE: That's so interesting.

BRANDY: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and as a child of the nineties, that's just kind of the trend in the food environment anyway.

MELANIE: All those trends of processed foods came out, but we didn't have the information, the research on the detriment of these foods yet.

BRANDY: Exactly. You know, and my mom didn't know what we know now. You know, she thought that she was doing our family a favor by giving us foods that were quick and easy to prepare. And especially for me and my brother, because we did kind of have to make some of our own meals ourselves sometimes.

MELANIE: And your mom trusted the labels.

BRANDY: Exactly. You know, a lot of it was marketed as good food. It was a lot of frozen foods, a lot of prepackaged foods. Chips were in the mix as well, some candy, lots of soda, and my mom still did make the time to make us a homemade dinner every night. When left to my own devices, I was reaching for those prepackaged processed foods.

MELANIE: Yeah, they're, they're pretty smart about making them tasty.

BRANDY: Oh yeah. They're tasty. They're so easy.

MELANIE: You and I were talking earlier about Toaster Strudels and how we couldn't stop at one.

BRANDY: Absolutely not.

MELANIE: They were so delicious. I remember that. Terrible, terrible for you.

BRANDY: At least two. If not three, if I could.

MELANIE: Well, good for you. I ate the box.

BRANDY: Well, you know, and that was kind of my M.O. and, beyond, the habit of those processed foods, I really didn't move much either. I was physically uncomfortable and, I was kind of embarrassed too. Because of my weight, it didn't really feel good to participate in gym class and I never was interested in enrolling in sports because I was simply too embarrassed by my weight, so those things combined, I really think that led to my weight gain, you know?

MELANIE: Of course. When I look at you now, you're very fit, you're very healthy, you're lean, you're full of energy. So tell us what happened and what did you do to change?

BRANDY: Well, I consider myself pretty lucky because around the time that I was really struggling with my weight and my body image, a few other people in my family were also trying to lose weight. You know, my aunt and my mom had decided to join a weight loss program and I got a hold of some of that information that they were using. I basically got a hold of this pamphlet that had a list of foods that was supposed to be helpful for weight loss. It was basically a list of like eat this, not that, to lose weight. And I was so desperate that I was willing to try anything.

MELANIE: Oh, Brandy.

BRANDY: Yes. And keeping in mind, like I am in a very small town in North Dakota. There's not really a lot of resources out there.

MELANIE: You had a pamphlet.

BRANDY: I had a pamphlet.

MELANIE: You did this from a pamphlet. I'm so impressed.

BRANDY: And this was before I had access to the internet; maybe a blessing in disguise, but this is all I had.

MELANIE: Yeah. You took it and ran.

Processed foods: main culprit for Brandy to cut out to lose weight

BRANDY: I was thinking, yeah, let's give it a whirl. Basically, what I learned was most of the processed foods that I was eating were not helping me. Like, that was the main culprit of what was related to my weight gain. And because I had such a strong desire to literally fit in a little better…

MELANIE: As every teenager wants.

BRANDY: Right, exactly. I stopped reaching for those processed foods. I stopped reaching for the chips, I stopped reaching for the candy.

MELANIE: You were determined.

BRANDY: I was.

MELANIE: I think, at that time, as a teen, did you realize that chips turned into sugar in your bloodstream? Probably not.

BRANDY: Oh, absolutely not. Until I started on this journey, I had no idea there was such a strong connection between what I was eating and my weight gain. Because remember, I thought this was all genetic and I had no control over it.

MELANIE: Yeah. And it's hard, I think it's even hard for some of our clients to make that connection on how some of these carbohydrate rich foods, processed foods, turn into sugar and cause the pancreas to release insulin, which is really what ushers fat onto the body is the insulin is what makes the body fat, but you couldn't know what you didn't know.

BRANDY: Absolutely. No. And it was many, many years before I realized what was happening biochemically. It's not even just the sugar. It's those foods that convert into sugar, things like savory foods like bread and chips and pretzels, even pizza. They're all fat storage foods.

MELANIE: And in the 90s, we believed whole grains were the answer to health.

Adding in real foods helped Brandy see results

BRANDY: Yeah. So whole grain bread, you know, my mom thought she was doing us a favor by making that switch, but it really wasn't much better. Instead of just eliminating those foods, right, I was replacing them with real food carbohydrates and adding some protein, adding some healthy fats. And that is when I started to see results.

MELANIE: Adding the protein.

BRANDY: Adding that protein; you know, it's such a crucial role protein played in my success.

MELANIE: Protein is a, it's a magical macronutrient, I think.

BRANDY: It really is. Definitely.

MELANIE: For so many things. You gave up sugar foods, cookies, candy. You stopped buying chips and frozen pizza, but you added in the protein. And so protein not only was giving you that satiety factor, but it was revving your metabolism by 30%.

BRANDY: That's right.

MELANIE: So it was giving you the energy probably to be a little more mobile.

BRANDY: Exactly. Yeah. And I mean, that's part of my story too. The more changes I made with the foods I was eating, the more energy I had and I was able to move a little bit more and I slowly started taking a few walks, started really slow, taking a walk, riding my bike for 20 minutes a day and, a pound or two would come off every week when I first got started and that was incredibly motivating.

MELANIE: Oh, I bet it was. Wasn't genetics.

BRANDY: Right, right.

MELANIE: Did you give up any other food?

BRANDY: Well, yeah, yeah, there were, a few other things that I had to say goodbye to. Soda was a big one. I was used to drinking at least one, if not two regular sodas every day, but the breakfast cereal was another big one. I would start my morning almost every morning with a big bowl, if not two bowls of sugary cereal, but the big change that I had to make was switching to more of like a savory breakfast. So instead of the cereal, I was doing a few eggs cooked in real butter.

MELANIE: You had access to them on the farm, right?

BRANDY: That's right, yeah. Actually, my grandma still had chickens. She lived a mile away, so we were getting farm fresh eggs. And we did actually have butter. I know margarine and those butter spreads were so popular in the 90s, but we actually used real butter.

MELANIE: Good for you.

BRANDY: Which is really great for your metabolism. And yeah, those eggs, that actually helped me feel so much better, so much energy in the morning. You know, I could make it to lunch period without feeling like I needed to take a nap in the middle of the classroom.

MELANIE: Sustainable and keeping you full, cause eggs are a great source of protein.

BRANDY: Exactly. Exactly. So really important for that satiety factor. So a couple, a few eggs, a little butter, maybe a small piece of fruit or something. And that was, I mean, it was simple, something I could make on my own.

MELANIE: And you didn't have the sugar crash in the middle of school? Didn't have the sugar crash, so I had good energy, good moods. I was doing a lot better in school.

MELANIE: Oh my gosh, that's fantastic. I'll bet your mother appreciated your better moods. With the focus on increasing animal protein, you're not only more satisfied and it's sustaining you at school.

BRANDY: Right.

MELANIE: But you're also is where is how we are able to make neurotransmitters.

BRANDY: That's right.

MELANIE: Which is the brain chemicals that help us feel happy, relaxed. So all good things for a teenager.

BRANDY: Oh, absolutely.

MELANIE: And good things for the mother of a teenager.

BRANDY: No kidding. Yeah. And I think, you know, I had no idea that was happening behind the scenes, you know, biochemically, but I, I was experiencing better moods and my relationships with my friends were so much better and I was making more friends.

It was life changing. I have to tell you that and I'm just feeling more energized. Ultimately, I picked up my love of the outdoors, hiking and running and biking, which is a huge part of who I am today. And this whole experience, I have to say, changed my life to the point that I wanted to pursue it on a professional level.

You know, I wanted to help other people discover the positive impact that eating real foods had on me. And ultimately, I decided to pursue a career in dietetics and went to dietetic school.

MELANIE: I love this story so much. Well, let's go to break really quick. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today, we're sharing information about the reasons to eat sufficient protein for weight loss. Brandy is sharing her fabulous story with us. It's so motivating. Protein is the powerhouse nutrient for weight loss. Many of you know that in the past you were told to eat less to lose weight.

Did eating less work for you? You have to ask yourself. Maybe for a short time and then you fell off the restrictive starvation type plan because you're hungry and you went straight to the cookie jar. We have a better plan, a better answer for weight loss. Eat more protein. Eat more vegetables. And eat only natural, beneficial fat, like Brandy mentioned, the butter.

Eating real food takes commitment, practice, and support. We now offer those support sessions called Ongoing Support and Education: a little bit of education and a lot of support. Starting the week of January 22nd, 2024, you can sign up for an in-person session. And if you're living in Montana or New York, we offer these sessions on Zoom. Look over our offering and sign up. Go to or talk to a real person at 651-699-3438. We’ll be right back.

Sign Up for Ongoing Support & Education


Welcome back. So we have been talking about the protein power for weight loss and talking to Brandy about her fabulous journey in a 50 pound weight loss that she did by incorporating real foods and emphasizing protein in her diet. It's been fascinating so far. What else have you got for us?

BRANDY: Well, yeah, I'm really, really happy to help everyone shed some light on this topic.

MELANIE: You're not stuck in your genetics. That's one of the best points you made is that genetics do not define your destiny.

90% of our behaviors contribute to health outcomes, not genetics

BRANDY: Such a good point. Yeah. I think so many people believe that genetics play a huge role in their health and health outcomes, but really we have so much more control than we believe.

MELANIE: Yeah. And I think I read a study that said between eight and 10 percent of your genetics is the influence upon your health.

BRANDY: That's right. I've heard the same thing. And that's often what I tell clients too. About 90 percent of our behaviors contribute to your health outcomes. So you are in control more than you think, and that's a powerful message.

MELANIE: You are in control. And it's not too late, no matter your age.

BRANDY: That's right. That's right. Start anytime. And as we know, the obesity epidemic is still impacting our country. Right now, currently, 42 percent of the U.S. population is falling in that obese category.


BRANDY: 42%. And we're not, I'm not talking overweight. I'm talking obesity. And that just means it's a clinical term. It basically means a higher percentage of body fat compared to lean body mass.

MELANIE: And we're not talking body image. We're talking health consequence of obesity.

Higher percentage of body fat is linked to risk of developing chronic diseases

BRANDY: Right. Cause we know that higher percentage of body fat does increase your risk of developing a lot of those chronic diseases like heart disease, like diabetes and cancer. That's what the data is showing.

MELANIE: Yes. So it's important for us to be aware of that.

BRANDY: That's right. So when I was a teen, those obesity numbers were a lot lower. But they were gradually starting to climb. And I do believe that as a result of how easily accessible those processed foods and those ultra processed foods are, I do believe that is what's contributing to the overweight and the obesity population right now.

MELANIE: I think so. And it's what we're eating to get to that place of obesity, right? We're not eating real foods.

BRANDY: Exactly.

MELANIE: We're eating processed foods which come with a whole host of problems in and of themselves with their ingredients. But let's step back and look at your weight loss journey. First of all, you were young and had just a little insulin resistance in your cells.

So when you removed bread, candy, chips, pizza, processed foods, those sugary foods, your body cooperated and lost weight. The body, especially as a young teen, it can respond pretty quickly. Were there any other habits or changes in your diet that helped you to lose weight, Brandy?

Remove sugary, processed foods to lose weight

BRANDY: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I think, I mentioned before how I really made an effort to remove all those sugary foods and not just the things that tasted sweet, but maybe even certain foods that were marketed as healthy foods, but were actually, just as bad as sugar, things that were made from processed and refined flours and processed grains, the cereal, the breakfast cereal, that was a big one.

MELANIE: So many of them are touted as heart healthy, weight loss. They're a weight loss aid and I always tell my clients, the front of a label is designed to sell you. It is not designed to keep you healthy. So roll it over. Read the ingredients.

BRANDY: Yes, read the, read that ingredients.

MELANIE: Better yet, pick a food that doesn't have a label.

BRANDY: Yeah. No, I, that's what I tell my clients too. If you find yourself reading a label, you need to stop and pause.

MELANIE: Good. Yes.  

BRANDY: But yeah, that breakfast cereal, I think it is an unknown source of hidden sugar in so many people's diets. And, unless you're limiting it to about a half a cup, maybe it isn't as detrimental as it could be. But I think most of us are eating at least a couple of cups. I personally was eating somewhere around three or four cups.

MELANIE: Yeah, that's what I used to eat when I had cereal and then you sprinkle sugar on top.

BRANDY: Then you add sugar with some skim milk. So you're just not really getting that natural fat in there. So yeah, it's a, it's not a good start to a day, not a good metabolism boost for your day.

MELANIE: Yeah, it's not in so many ways. And I, you know, even I hesitate to even say half a cup of cereal is okay because it's, that's an angry portion.

BRANDY: Right.

MELANIE: It's just enough to make you angry. It's really not satisfying. So perhaps more and more people are now realizing that that breakfast cereal is just not the breakfast of champions that we were told because the business section of the Star Tribune newspaper announced that General Mills sales fell by 2 percent this past year. A 2 percent drop in sales doesn't sound like much, but really 2 percent drop in sales is a significant decrease when you look at the population.

BRANDY: And that's a huge company. 2 percent is a lot. And I can only hope that that number is trending downward because people are starting to wisen up to what cereal is really doing for them; not really the health food that we once thought that it was.

So I just want to share another point about my weight loss success. I want to point out that I wasn't just cutting out cereal. I wasn't just removing all of these processed foods.

MELANIE: You weren't on a necessary calorically restrictive diet.

BRANDY: Yes. I think that's really important to emphasize here that I was adding so many new foods into my life. I was adding more vegetables. I was adding more protein and looking back, I realize now that as a teen and as a younger person, I wasn't eating a lot of protein at all, you know, starting my day out with cereal; the school lunch, often really pretty horrible, very, very high carb.


BRANDY: And when I would get home, it was the chips. So it was carbs, carbs, carbs, processed carbs all day. The first time I ate protein was probably that dinner meal that my mom made me.

MELANIE: You probably come home starving.

BRANDY: Oh yeah.

MELANIE: It makes you wonder the way kids tear into the house and are just ravenous. This is the connection. They're not getting enough protein.

BRANDY: I would have to agree. Yep. Because once I started adding that protein in, I was satiated all day. You know, all day; even keel. I wasn't reaching for those processed foods like I was. And I wasn't really tempted to either.

MELANIE: Were you surprised at how well you felt?

BRANDY: Yeah. Yeah. That was a side effect that I did not expect. You know, weight loss was my initial motivation for all of this, but just how energized I felt was an amazing side effect.

MELANIE: Yeah, I love that you just developed this whole love of the outdoors activities.

BRANDY: Yeah, I never really pictured myself as an outdoors type, but here I am, you know, that's, that's kind of my M.O.

MELANIE: I love it.

Protein is crucial for many reasons

BRANDY: But yeah, I didn't really realize how important it was to be eating so much protein until I felt the benefits for one, but really started studying the science behind it. So I learned more that protein is so crucial, not only for feeling satiated, but it is so important for our liver function, which is like our metabolism powerhouse, but also our brain function. And we need that protein to build strong bones and to build muscles. So all of that.

MELANIE: And cognitive function. So when you think of school children from any age and you want them to function and learn, behave, protein is really key for cognitive function.

BRANDY: Definitely. I mean, it sounds like a simple thing, but I mean, it could have a dramatic impact on school performance.


BRANDY: And all of that supports weight loss. So if weight loss is your goal, energy needs to be part of that picture. And really that's the core of our topic today is the power of protein for weight loss.

MELANIE: And circling back, it revs your metabolism by 30%.

BRANDY: That's right.

MELANIE: So you want to have the energy to participate in life.

BRANDY: Definitely. Yeah. And there's a lot of research, old and new that supports the importance of protein for weight loss, tying into how it impacts, cravings, how it supports building muscle, appetite control and like you said boosting metabolism by about 30 percent every time you eat it.

MELANIE: It's fabulous. Well let's start with a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition almost 10 years ago, June 2015. The takeaway that was reported as a successful strategy to prevent or even treat obesity was to eat sufficient protein. The study found that when clients ate at least four ounces of meat or fish, which is about 25 to 30 grams per meal, they had better appetite control.

They even lost weight, they did not gain weight, and had better cardiometabolic numbers. This study found that four ounces of protein at least three times a day is one of those strategies, our secrets for weight loss and for continued weight control. I have a quote, which I love from Dr. Mark Hyman.

BRANDY: Oh, awesome.

MELANIE: So Dr. Mark Hyman has turned his passion for functional medicine and real food nutrition and wellness into activism, working to change our food system on a global scale. He's so passionate about this, but he says, and I'm quoting, “Not only is protein a vital component of healthy skeletal muscle, but it is also an essential lever in weight loss, stabilizing blood sugar and reversing metabolic syndrome.”

And when it comes to animal based protein, we can't just say all meat is good or no meat is good. It's a matter of what types and sources of protein you're eating and what the rest of your diet looks like. So you change not only what you are putting in but also you took out.

BRANDY: Correct. Right.

MELANIE: So important.

BRANDY: So important. And that quote and what the message behind that quote is, is, is just reinforcing the research findings that have been published for years, honestly. And that's kind of encouraging to know that the advice that we've been giving our clients, it continues to ring true.


BRANDY: Especially for our clients that are coming to us to get some, a little support with the weight loss.

MELANIE: It really is a timeless message.

BRANDY: Well, I think that it's such interesting research and really it just reinforces the finding that's that have been published for years, actually.

MELANIE: Timeless, timeless information because it holds true to the biology of our bodies.

Consuming protein before exercise can help with weight loss

BRANDY: Exactly. And that's really encouraging for me because I know like the advice we're giving our clients is, is still relevant, you know, and one of, one of the secrets that I like to tell my clients for weight loss is needing to consume a little bit of protein before they exercise.

MELANIE: Oh, yeah. I love that because it's critical.

BRANDY: It is critical, especially when we are, when our goal is to not only preserve, but build muscle. So there's some great research that's been published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism. And they found that people who consumed whey protein before exercise were actually able to burn more fat than those who ate nothing at all or those that were eating something sugary or processed before exercise.

So that's something I tell my clients to do. Eat some protein, maybe a protein shake before they exercise. And that's going to increase the odds that they're actually able to build some muscle.

MELANIE: And you're talking about a homemade protein shake.

BRANDY: Exactly. Very good point. I mean, there's a lot of premade protein shakes out there that are…

MELANIE: I have not found one that I would recommend anyone consume.

BRANDY: Exactly. Yeah; usually full of sugar or refined oils, which are both bad for your metabolism, but it's really easy to make your own. Get ahold of some high quality grass fed whey protein powder or Paleo Protein powder, mix that with some yogurt or maybe blend it with some canned coconut milk, maybe a little bit of fruit, some spinach or something like that. And you have a perfectly balanced protein shake.

MELANIE: Yes. Yum.

BRANDY: So we're aiming for about 25 to 30 grams of protein. So maybe it's a scoop of that protein powder, maybe a scoop of the Key Collagen. That's all you really need. So if you're new to making your own protein shake, we have quite a few recipes for protein shakes on our website,

Check Out Some of Our Protein Shake Recipes!

MELANIE: Yeah, that's a really good point. Again, so many research studies recommending eating adequate protein for weight loss. The Cleveland Clinic showed an article pointing out four ways protein can help you shed pounds. Protein helps you stay full longer. We talked about that because it slows your digestion down, so you benefit from the amino acids in the protein and other additional nutrients such as zinc, B vitamins, and even calcium. This article also reported that a higher protein diet over a longer period of time has been linked to eating less and weighing less.

BRANDY: That's amazing. Even more evidence that protein is the secret to weight loss. And I would say not just weight loss, but sustaining that weight loss.


BRANDY: It also I believe plays such an important role in living an active lifestyle, and I know that from experience as a runner. You know, and that's something that is really important to me that I'm really passionate about. And I've been interested in understanding more about how that animal-based protein can support me in maintaining my muscle mass and my endurance. And that's what I'm finding. It is crucial in not only maintaining your muscles, but improving your strength, improving your mobility, injury prevention, and that is all important for your metabolism.

So, if you're able to maintain your muscle mass, or build muscle even, you are going to be able to burn more calories, not only while you're moving your body, but while you're sitting, while you're sleeping. So your metabolic rate is going to be higher when you have more muscle. It's just metabolically as a tissue, more active.

MELANIE: It is. You know, and if you're listening to this podcast and you're so tired of fighting hunger just to lose weight, we definitely recommend eating more protein in the form of animal protein. Just start with four ounces per meal three times a day. And see how you feel. It's going to rev your metabolism.

It's going to help you have better cognitive brain function. It's going to improve your mood, which is going to motivate you on your weight loss journey. So we really hope that you enjoyed Brandy's story today and got some great tips on how to not be hungry along your weight loss journey and to rev your metabolism for success.

Our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you for joining us today.

BRANDY: Thank you.

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