Fundamentals of Fat Loss Part IV – Eat Plenty of Protein
In Part I found here, we talked about an overview of what we need to do to lose fat. In Part II here, we covered burning more calories than what you take in (a calorie deficit). In Part III found here, we discussed the secret weapon of fat loss: strength training. Today, we will be talking about how to up your protein game.
As a reminder, you need to consistently do 3 things to make your body burn fat:
- Burn more calories than you take in
- Strength train 3 days per week
- Get plenty of protein
To start, let’s uncover what protein actually is. Protein is an energy containing macronutrient that is responsible for or has a hand in virtually every process in the body. For the purposes of this post, it is vital in repairing and restructuring muscle and other tissues.
Outside of that it is important in other cellular structures, immunity and enzymatic processes. It’s an important part of optimizing body processes, including fat loss. Common protein containing foods are things like chicken, beef, beans, soy, and dairy.
When you start as a new member at Epic Fitness, we give some baseline guidelines for calories and protein. Calories, to manage weight appropriately depending on the person’s immediate goals, and protein as a starting point to help folks understand it is a priority. We also call this being in a “positive nitrogen balance” on a daily basis, especially when you are strength training.
Here is the basis for why we want to be in a positive nitrogen balance, meaning we are eating enough protein to help us towards our goals of fat loss/muscle gain/maintenance (fill in the blank!):
- First, remember that fat loss is about cannibalizing your own body’s tissue for fuel because of a “fuel shortage”
- Your body will make up the caloric deficit from its own tissue – Fat or Protein – You get to choose! You will cannibalize your protein stores if you are not getting sufficient amounts of protein.
- You get to direct the Tissue Cannibalization – By creating a Positive Nitrogen Balance.
Now, you may be asking “How do I create this positive nitrogen balance?” It is as simple as these 3 steps:
- When you eat protein, your body breaks the protein down into amino acids.
- Those amino acids are then used to repair and grow new muscle fibers.
- When you consume an adequate amount of protein, your body will experience a Positive Nitrogen Balance.
The next question always is, “Well, what is adequate for protein intake then?”
Well, there are a lot of bad recommendations out there. The RDA (Registered Dieticians Association) recommendation is .8g/kg of body weight is around HALF of what you should actually be getting in your diet as an active, healthy adult. You should be closer to 1.6 g/kg BW.
But let’s actually make this super simple and talk about this in pounds of body weight (since we are the last country to be doing things imperially!)
Our baseline recommendation for protein intake is 0.75 g/pound of your current body weight.
So, if you weigh 160 pounds, start with 120 grams of protein per day. We use this number because it is approachable and attainable, and has some room to move up or down. That way, as you get going you can track how you are doing, adjust, and find your sweet spot as you get better at eating alongside with your strength training.
Note: This recommendation would change with someone who is looking to add size/mass or for someone who has a significant amount of weight to lose, as it would be simply unrealistic.
A common question we get is, “How do I increase my protein intake?” There are a lot of ways to do this, but here are 3 general concepts that can help:
- Double up on protein you are already consuming: Choose 4 eggs instead of 2 (24 g vs. 12g). 2 palm sized (3oz) servings of chicken at lunch on your salad, versus the 1 you used to eat (48g vs 24g). If you did the same at dinner, you’d be around 120-130g of protein, and that is only with meat and dairy examples! You will still get some smaller amounts of protein from most foods. We use this concept with clients when it is clear that they under-eat at breakfast and lunch, then it usually makes dinner less controlled. By emphasizing high protein at both of those first meals, we encouraged satiety so that you can make better decisions in the evening, as well as recover from your morning strength workouts.
- The Rule of 10: Try and ask yourself how you can add another 10 grams of protein to each meal. So, maybe it’s another egg and some nuts. Another chicken sausage, 2 pieces of deli meat. Half a can of tuna. Half of a protein shake. A yogurt on the side. By the end of the day, adding an extra 10 grams of protein at each meal will get you another 30 grams. Over time this will pay huge dividends in conjunction with keeping your calories in check. Maybe this adds some “variety” to your meals, too! If this helps you hit your protein for the day, it’s going to lead to better results.
- Supplementation: There are tons of options out there, and thanks to modern food technology, most protein supplements taste MUCH better than they used to. We primarily want to get our protein from whole food sources; there are more nutrients, there are less ingredients, and they are generally more bioavailable.
For most of us aiming to hit goals in the gym, supplementing can be a game changer in terms of rounding out our protein intake. Think about it this way – protein supplements are a way to always have a solid source of protein on hand, whether we are on the go or need a quick meal to get us to dinner. There are many varieties: whey and casein (dairy, fast and slow digesting), egg, plant based, collagen – they can all work just fine based on your preference.
We typically suggest supplementing with protein immediately after workouts at the gym to fasttrack recovery and start refueling for the next workout. Or, if you want to add more to it, you can use frozen fruit, yogurt, or other ingredients to blend your shake into a full meal. This can help curb some calories too. All in all, protein supplements are a great way to get another 20-40g of protein each day.
We hope you found this information valuable and useful! Want to have a chat about how we can help? Click the link below to jump on a quick 5-10 minute discovery call to see if we could be a good fit for you!