If you come to me and say “I need to lose inches” “I need to gain muscle” “I need to lose weight” or “I need to tone up” there is one piece of advice I will give you.
You need to eat more protein. As a Personal Trainer I say this so frequently I'm thinking of getting it tattooed on my forehead.
Protein is necessary to build and/or maintain muscle. This is of extra importance if you are aiming to lose weight, inches or reshape your body. Adequate protein intake while eating a caloric deficit will expedite the fat loss process.
Many people do not eat enough protein for their body or their goals, especially women. Get it together, ladies.
A recent study has shown that total calories and the amount of protein within those calories are the only two contributing dietary factors in reshaping your body.
The ratio of carbohydrates and fat contained can vary and will not affect the outcome of the diet as long as they don’t put you into a caloric surplus, or make you eat too much.
These findings make dieting rather simple, but require diligent work in tracking all your calories until you’ve developed a mental computer that can scan, measure and calculate calories on the spot. That takes years to develop.
Anyway, the big takeaways in order of importance from this study are:
- Don't eat more than you should.
- Your protein intake is super f-ing important
- Eat whatever ratio of carbs and fat you desire, just make sure you’re diligent and don’t eat more than your prescribed calories.
Why is protein so important?
Protein is the only anabolic macronutrient. That means it’s necessary to build and maintain muscle. Carbs and fats contribute to this as well, but only in the presence of adequate protein.
Protein also has a higher thermic effect than carbs or fats. It forces your metabolism to work harder during the digestion process so you actually burn more calories just from eating more protein.
The high thermic effect of protein also makes it the most satiating of the macronutrients. Since it takes longer and require more energy to break down it helps you feel fuller for much,much longer than carbs or fats.
Protein has amazing metabolic and aesthetic effects. Despite this many people struggle to eat enough for their goals.
In order to consume adequate protein you need to mentally prioritize it. You need to make sure that every meal and snack you eat has a good source of protein involved.
When I say good protein I mean protein from an animal source. Your first choice of protein should always be a meat, or natural source like chicken, fish, pork, steak, eggs or lamb.
This is not always easy.
It also means you need to have a ready, easy source of protein available. My favorite is this Whey Isolate from Bulk Supplements. It is the purest form of Whey on the market with no filler ingredients. One scoop has 27 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of carbs, making it the perfect protein to recommend for people looking to lose weight.
When possible you should always choose a protein shake over a protein bar. Most protein bars are glorified candy bars with only 10 extra grams of protein. Their sugar and garbage calorie content makes them almost useless when trying to change your body.
Depending on your dietary choices and food preferences there are many lists of foods to add in order to consume more protein, but I’m just going to give you some basic rules since wading into the food preference swamp will make this article the length of a George RR Martin novel, and will probably take me just as long to finish.
Here are the basic rules to follow to make sure you're eating enough protein.
1. Protein should be the first thing you eat every day.
That means having eggs instead of cereal, or having a protein shake before your Maple Frappa Mocha Latte with two pumps of Goose Sugar for $17 from Starbucks.
2. A protein source should account for at least half of every meal.
Calorically and size wise, your protein source should account for half (or more than half) of your calories per meal and should also take up at least half of your plate. An easy way to visualize this is to hold your hand out, with your fingers spread and your palm facing up. Your protein source should take up the amount of space in your palm. Your vegetables should take up the space from your index to pinky finger and your carbohydrates should take up the space between your thumb and first finger.
3. When possible opt for a “real” source of protein like meat, but don’t hesitate to include as many protein shakes as necessary to hit your goals every day.
All of these rules require you to be DISCIPLINED, FOCUSED and DILIGENT in both what you’re eating and how you’re tracking it. You should not “guesstimate” your protein intake. You need to buy a food scale and weigh each piece of protein you eat for at least 2 months. This may seem like a pain in the ass, but it can be eye opening and will force you to be honest about how much you’re eating.
Now that I’ve given you some rules I’ll show you how to calculate the amount of protein you need to eat. Grab your abacus, calculus textbook and a pot of coffee because this is going to take all night.
Just kidding, if you click this link and enter your weight and body fat percentage it will calculate all your caloric requirements for you.
It will give you two Macro totals. One is an option for an Aggressive Caloric Deficit. It is set at 200 calories below your maintenance calories (calories needed to stay the same weight) but you can adjust that as you see fit. I would not recommend anything higher than 400 calorie deficit for a long period of time unless you’re into not being able to think, workout or function as a normal human being.
The second is an option for Body Recomposition. This is for people who do not necessarily want to lose or gain weight, but want to change the appearance of their body. These totals are designed to help you build muscle while also shedding some fat. This is a slower process but if followed diligently will allow you to completely change the way your body looks.
Getting enough protein in your diet is staggeringly important. Protein is the building block of your new body, and you need to be focused on consuming enough.
Frame your mind correctly and prioritize your protein intake by calculating the exact amount you should be eating and then follow those simple rules.
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