It seems many people are a little unsure about protein – and think that eating protein or drinking protein shakes will make them fat.
When it comes to losing body fat, and really making a difference in your body composition, your protein intake can really help ALOT. So, in light of all the misconceptions with protein and what it does and does not do for you – i’m gonna tell you straight up what the deal is.
Ok, so basically if your goal is to lose body fat (pretty much everybody), one of your main training objectives should be to add, or at least maintain your muscle tissue. This will keep your metabolism running high, and make you look a lot more ‘toned’ and in better shape, which is what most people want.
For nearly 100% of the population, if you were to add some lean muscle on your body, and drop some body fat – you would look leaner, more toned, fit into smaller clothes, and just simply look better.
I have noticed, particularly amongst female clients, that there is a lot of confusion about protein consumption, the most common being that eating more will all of a sudden make them fat or bulky. I can honestly say that this is one of the most annoying misunderstandings I come across and I think it really sets a lot of people back. The most annoying part is that their diets often contain a lot of processed carbohydrates like breads and cereals with ‘healthy healthy whole grains’ – which is actually much more likely to lead to weight gain.
I’m not sure what to put this down to, but I think the image of bodybuilders and their protein shakes and chicken breasts, and the fact that most people have at some stage known someone who was trying to ‘bulk up’ using some sort of protein powder has given protein a bad image for females. (weird because body builders actually have extrememely LOW body fat levels)
The apparent effects of protein…
Now you can get particular types of protein to help you specifically to ‘bulk up’ but the only difference is that its got added carbohydrates in it, so its actually the carbs that will help you bulk up because it allows you to quickly chug down a tonne of calories, and yes if you take too much it CAN make you fat.
But of all the macronutrients – protein, carbs and fats. Protein is the least likely to make you fat.
The reality is, if you could be bothered spending hours on end to:
• Look at the studies and research on high protein diets amongst the every day population.
• Study the anecdotal evidence amongst athletes, figure competitors and regular everyday people,
• Ask other personal trainers who specialize in fat loss,
• Talk to elite strength and conditioning coaches
• Study the diets of many professional athletes,
• Study the diets of hunter / gatherer cultures who have no obesity, are fit and lean, and have virtually none of our modern health issues like heart disease.
• Read the books and blogs of some of the worlds experts on fat loss and nutrition….
You would come to the conclusion that a higher protein intake in your diet is very helpful for fat loss, gains in lean muscle (toning up), as well as health and performance, especially when compared to higher carbohydrate diets.
And especially for people who participate in regular exercise and weight training as this will increase your need for protein too.
Now I didn’t say HIGH protein diet, this makes it seem out of the ordinary, I just said HIGHER…I bet most of you could do with higher.
Some people tell me they read that ‘ 30grams of protein per day is enough’ or that the RDI of protein is only this amount etc etc….
And yes you’re probably right,
Im sure the amount of protein to be ‘enough’ is a lot lower than what is needed to be optimal for making big changes in body composition and be healthy and lean.
So if your idea of ‘enough’ is only what is needed to stave of death, then you are correct.
But for many people, their goals are to lose fat, tone up and get in optimal condition.
So Why Exactly Is Protein So Important?…
Protein will help you first recover from training, and then add some lean muscle. So after you train, your body needs to repair your muscles and connective tissue from the strain you’ve put it through. Once it’s done this, it can then go a step further and actually adapt to the training stimulus you’ve placed on it, and add new muscle tissue and get stronger etc. The whole premise of exercise is based around stress and adaptation.
Protein is the building blocks to repair and grow your muscle tissue, YOUR muscles are actually made of protein. (as well as your bones, hair, skin and nails! – protein is actually the most common substance in your body apart from water!).
Protein will help you preserve your muscle when you are on a lower calorie diet and losing weight. Now remember we don’t just want to lose ‘weight’, we want to lose body fat. So when you’re eating to lose body fat, the higher your protein intake the more muscle you’ll preserve and the more FAT you’ll lose. Sounds good to me! (this is also why its essential to weight train on a low calorie fat loss diet)
Protein will speed up your metabolism. Something you probably don’t know is you can actually burn approx 30% of the calories you ingest from protein just metabolizing it. So effectively, all things being equal, the higher percentage of your diet that’s made of protein, the higher your metabolism will be, and the more fat you’ll burn.
Protein is quite filling, and this can be helpful to people following a lower calorie diet than they are used to. If you’re main problem is you’re used to eating a lot of food, and you’re trying to eat less, then eating some protein with every meal will help you feel more satisfied.
Again, don’t be fooled any more by the powder form, it is not a magic formula for muscles, it is not an evil formula for weight gain, it is just protein, and a good quality whey protein powder can definitely help in your quest for fat loss, lean muscle gains, and strength. It’s also been shown to have immune boosting benefits.
I’ve had some people ask me if drinking protein shakes will make them fat
Well technically eating too much of anything can make you put on weight, you could eat too much broccoli if you ate enough to exceed your energy expenditure. Of course a protein shake is going to contribute to your overall calorie intake along with every thing else you consume so If you’re already eating too much then of course you wont lose weight – you’re just adding extra calories from a shake.
And remember there’s nothing in a shake you can’t get from good quality lean meat, it’s literally just protein. So unless you’ve got an allergy to whey protein or something and it’s doing strange things to your body, it’s really just the same as asking ‘if I eat a chicken breast will that make be fat?’
A protein shake is used for convenience – it is a quick and convenient way of consuming 25-50 grams of protein which when tied in with other principles of a good eating plan and exercise program will be very helpful due to the 4 reasons above.
On its own, without addressing other areas in your diet, its hard to say whether this will be enough to elicit changes in body compostion for you, it all depends on where you’re at and what you’re doing in regards to the rest of your food.
So if you start drinking protein shakes because you think it’s some sort of magic bullet fat loss formula then it’s just as irrational as thinking it’s a magical fat gain or muscle gain powder.
Magic bullet quick fixes don’t exist.
So hope that helps you get your head around it.
Now just to clarify – we should be eating a decent serving of protein at least with every main meal, between 25-50 grams per meal depending on your gender, body size and goals.
To give you a rough idea of how much protein to consume with each main meal, just think that lean animal meat has roughly 20-30% protein. So about 100-150g will do fine for a serving for most (or just drink a shake if this isn’t possible). Along with this, remember to eat a tonne of veggies and high fibre fruits, and lots of healthy fats like fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, eggs, nuts, avocado etc .
Now there is some protein in other things like cereals, beans and some vegetables, however the nutritional value (and we’re ONLY talking about protein here not overall nutritional value) is less than ideal when we are talking about building and repairing parts of the human body.
Good quality Whey protein powder is a good way to meet your quota of protein, and for a convenient snack or meal replacement. So I definitely recommend having some on hand as I know most of you are busy and don’t have time to prepare and eat 4-6 meals or snacks per day with some protein in it.
So there you have it! That’s the scoop on protein! (sorry I couldn’t help myself there) 😛