Protein: The Overlooked Secret to Staying Lean
Since you are reading our blog, I am going to assume you know the basics of protein. You probably know that protein is essential to building and maintaining lean muscle mass, and that if you aren’t eating enough your results from training will be sub-optimal.
But what you may not know is that eating the right amount of protein will greatly enhance athletic recovery from hard training sessions.
Not only that, adequate protein intake is critical to supporting optimal weight loss. It may sound counter intuitive, but eating more protein may be the missing link to your being able to get and stay lean.
So what makes protein so important?
Its all about Amino Acids
Why is dietary protein is so important? Because it is where you acquire the amino acids your body needs to build and maintain important tissues.
We are literally made of protein from our bones to our muscles, arteries and veins, skin, hair, and fingernails. Our heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and lungs are built of tissue made of protein.
A protein molecule is a molecule made of amino acids bound together. There are 20 amino acids that make up protein molecules. Ten of these amino acids are non-essential, meaning the body can manufacture them on its own, while the other 10 are essential amino acids, meaning the body must acquire them through the foods that you eat.
You may have heard the term “a complete protein”. This refers to a food that contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs.
Here is a list of common complete proteins:
Meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc)
Dairy foods (whey protein)
Here is a list of common incomplete proteins:
Nuts/nut berries Seeds/seed butters Vegetables
We must consume complete proteins in order to get the essential amino acids in the adequate quantities that we need to build and repair our lean tissues which are made out of protein.
you can also combine foods that together contain all of the essential amino acids that you need to form a complete protein.
So far we have established that protein is essential in order to get the amino acids that we need to build and repair lean tissue, but why do active, hard training people need more than sedentary people?
The more physically active that you are the more that your body breaks down your lean tissue in an effort to put amino acts into your blood stream to be used to support your activity level.
(this is what people are generally talking about when they use the term catabolic, although catabolic processes are happening 24 hours per day, but that’s a post for another day.)
The more active that you are, the more your bodies demand for amino acids goes up. So the more active that you are, the more your dietary protein retirement will go up In order to meet your bodies demand.
Remember, if there is a deficit in supply of amino acids from protein to your body, your body will make up for it by breaking down your lean tissue.
This inadequate protein intake and subsequent lean tissue breakdown is what can lead to poor recovery, excessive soreness, lack of energy, poor performance, lack of muscle growth and more.
It is imperative, then, that you ensure adequate protein intake for your activity level.
More than simply supporting your activity level, you also need adequate protein to get and stay lean!
All foods that you consume are comprised of protein, carbs, or fats.
Each of these macronutrients costs a certain number of calories to digest. This caloric cost is called the thermic effect of food, or TEF.
The TEF for each of the macronutrients is listed below.
Protein: 20 to 35%
Carbs: 5 to 15%
Fats: 0 to 5%
As you can see, up to 35 percent of the caloric content of protein is spent digesting the protein, while carbs and fats are significantly lower.
This means that if you eat a 2000 calorie diet with 40 percent of calories coming from protein, you would burn up to 280 calories per day simply digesting the protein.
Compare that to only 140 calories per day burned from a 2000 calorie diet comprised of 20 percent protein.
When replacing protein with either carbs or fats, the thermic effect of food, TEF is reduced and the result is is the amount of calories you burn daily.
In short, Increasing your protein levels while restricting your calories will allow for maximum TEF, and therefore maximum fat loss.
Satiety is King
Another Key benefit to protein is its effects on satiety. Satiety refers to the ability of food to promote a sense of fullness. This is important, because they most critical aspect of getting results from any weight loss does is being able to adhere to it. If you are hungry all the time from inadequate protein intake you are much more likely to cheat and overeat. Make sure that you focus on hitting your protein consumption goals to give you the best chance at success.
So, how much protein do you need?
A recent meta analysis on protein intake to support resistance training recommends a minimum of 1.6g our kilogram of bodyweight. (.8g per lb minimum). This is important, as a meta analysis is a review of all available research, nit just a single study. Now, keep in mind that this is the minimum required to support adaptations to your training, however you can, and probably should aim a bit higher. This is due to whites called the confidence interval in studies. This is the variance with which researchers suggest their findings may be off. In this case, aiming for 1g protein per lb of body mass should provide good insurance that you are getting more than enough protein to ensure efficient adaptations to your training.
The take home
If you have been suffering from poor recovery, lack of results in the gym, or not seeing the fat loss you want, the answer may be simply upping your protein intake.
If you find it difficult to get enough protein through whole foods each day, a high quality protein supplement, like BioWhey from Nutrastat is a perfect solution. With uncompromising quality, and flavors that are industry best, BioWhey is the perfect insurance against inadequate protein intake.
And in case you are wondering why you'd want a whey protein over something like a plant based protein, as long as you aren't vegan, we will fill you in next week in our next protein deep dive where we will talk about health benefits that are exclusive to whey protein.