“I want to change the way I look but where do I start?”
There is a multitude of information you can find on nutrition, each one making recommendations on how much, what, and when to eat, but it’s not always easy to digest (pun-intended). 😉
So where do you start?? When I work with people to help dial in their macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fat) there is one commonality, protein intake is too low. Whether you are looking to lose fat, build muscle, or just be healthy, protein will be key to your success.
Why do you need protein?
Protein is a key component to build and repair your body and a key building block of muscles, organs, hair, blood, fingernails, etc. Your body is a miraculous organism that recycles and rebuilds these cells all day, every day making protein essential for overall function and sustaining life. Without any protein you will die but your body can sustain the breakdown and repair process with minimal amounts of protein.
This low daily requirement for survival is why the Canadian food guide and mainstream nutritional organizations tend to suggest much lower grams of protein than what our body may actually require. For instance, the Canadian food guide suggests eating 0.36g per pound of body weight. This amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. If you are a person who is sedentary and aren’t trying to lose weight or build muscle, these minimal amounts of protein could work.
The problem with this minimalist recommendation is that it does not take goals or activity into account. As soon as you add strength training into your daily routine your body’s requirement for protein increases because you are increasing the rate of muscle-protein breakdown and the need to create new muscle tissue.
Proteins role in losing fat
Quite simply, losing weight is a numbers game of calories in (food) versus calories out (energy expended). To lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit.
This does not mean complete calorie restriction or low calorie diet but is simply less calories consumed than expended. The heavier you are the more you need to consume to sustain your muscle. A male weighing 210lbs needs to eat more protein than his 140lbs counterpart. Likewise, the more you train (expend) the more you need to eat.
It is important to note that the right calories alone will not necessary guarantee success in reaching your goal. While it is a game of calories in and calories out, how those macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) are balanced need to be in relation to your goal. If your goal is to lose fat, protein MUST be a priority. An individual looking to drop weight in general could do so by calorie counting and ensuring a caloric deficit with little regard for how much protein is consumed. This individual will certainly lose weight some of which WILL be muscle mass.
Your lean muscles mass plays a large part in the amount of calories you burn in a rested state (or your basal metabolic rate). The more muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR, the more calories your body will expend daily, and the more you need to consume.
Protein is essential in maintaining your lean muscle mass and helping you burn fat. If you are not consuming enough protein, your body will have less overall energy to support the process of muscle repair and growth, and your body may start to degrade your muscle mass for fuel. Essentially, if you under-eat protein you can not only negatively effect your metabolism, by decreasing your basal metabolic rate and cause your body to burn less at a resting state, but you will also lose muscle in the process. Remember, your muscle is your fat burner and your metabolism upper, when you under-eat your body will breakdown your muscle to get the fuel it needs decreasing your metabolism, muscle mass, fat burn, and moving you in the opposite direction of your goal. This is why aiming for weight loss only with no regard to maintain lean muscle is a short-sighted venture (picture a yo-yo dieter that uses calorie-restriction as their go-to). The individual that chooses to lose weight only (and looses muscle mass in the process) decreases their metabolic rate and depletes their fat burning engine. Therefore, this tactic requires constant caloric deficit in order to maintain results. If the individual increases calories and moves away from a caloric deficit, they are not only likely to gain the weight back, but may become heavier than when they started because their metabolism is now slower and they do not have the same muscle mass to expend the energy (or calories) they once did.
So, if your goal is to only lose fat and change body composition, getting your daily protein intake right is important. When your body has a proper amount of protein it can then use stored body fat as fuel when in a caloric deficit.
A second major role protein plays in fat loss is one of satiation (or feeling full). Of all the macronutrients that we get our calories from (protein, fat, carbs), protein is the key player in controlling your hunger, curbing your appetite, and keeping you full and satisfied.
As you can imagine, feeling satisfied throughout the day is important when trying to lose fat, and will help you be successful long term.
Proteins role in building muscle
Unlike losing fat, where the only absolute requirement is a caloric deficit (protein is just an extremely important part of the process), building muscle actually has two dietary requirements: a caloric surplus and eating a sufficient amount of protein on a daily basis.
The bottom line remains that protein is the “building block” of muscle. Without enough of it, your body just cannot, and will not, build muscle. So, if your goal is to build any amount of muscle, increase strength or improve performance in any capacity, a sufficient protein intake is more than just an important part of the process. It’s a requirement.
How much protein do I need??
Hopefully now you have a better understanding of what protein does and why your daily protein intake plays such an important role in losing fat, building muscle, being healthy in general. We still need to answer the question, what does that mean for you????
As mentioned earlier, the Canadian food guide recommends 0.36 to 0.54 for someone with low protein needs, they include:
eating at or above maintenance levels
light exercise, without specific training goals
moderate to high body fat
not training to gain muscle
low-protein diet is required for medical reasons.
For anyone with specific goals, engaging in activity, 0.7 to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight per day is more appropriate. This is true for anyone who is:
eating below maintenance (anyone wanting to make a change) participating in vigorous, progressive or goal-oriented training low body fat training to gain muscle, or at least preserve what you have while lose fat have no medical restrictions.
Generally speaking, 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day should be sufficient to build and repair muscle following your workouts, while also help to increase your metabolism and limit hunger.
2016 11 22