Despite what many believe, you really can build muscle and lose body fat simultaneously. In fact, I’ve had some of my best gains in muscle mass occur when I’m as lean and “shredded” as I can get.
One of the tricks to making this happen is to be sure to consume adequate quantities of protein while losing body fat. This “lose weight with protein” formula is all about preserving valuable, metabolism-enhancing muscle mass while stripping off cellulite through the optimization of macro-nutrient partitioning. Simply put, it consists of replacing some of our carbohydrate and dietary fat calories with those of high-quality animal proteins.
Let’s go over a few reasons why we should ‘lose weight with protein’; or rather, shed body fat by slightly increasing our intake of this important macro-nutrient.
- Protein provides the building blocks for muscle.
- Protein slows down digestion of carbohydrates, allowing for steadier blood sugar levels.
- Adequate protein allows us to feel satiated for longer periods between meals.
- Protein has a higher “thermal effect” than carbohydrates or dietary fats.
Protein provides the building blocks for Muscle
Researchers can argue ‘til the cows come home (“mm, beef”) regarding how many calories each pound of added muscle on the body burns. Many bodybuilders (myself included) don’t need an exact number; we know from experience that muscle gains improve metabolism. Adding twenty pounds of muscle to the body holds the real possibility of preventing twenty pounds of fat from creeping on during any given year as we just go about our daily tasks.
But adding muscle requires at least a couple of key components: an effective bodybuilding routine and adequate protein intake. The routine needs to provide a nearly perfect ratio between muscle breakdown (workouts) and muscle recuperation time. The protein intake should consist of at least a gram and a half of protein each day per pound of current lean body weight.
Building muscle is more of an indirect tactic in the ‘lose weight with protein’ strategy, but it’s a very rewarding one. And remember, the amino acids in dietary protein are not only the building blocks of muscle, but of all other bodily tissue as well.
Protein slows down digestion of carbohydrates, allowing for steadier blood sugar levels
When I was just a typical ignoramus teenager, I had a really bad habit. I would start my day by eating two whopping bowls of Raisin Bran before I went to school. That was it – just the bran and some milk. It’s no surprise to me now that by the time my third period class rolled around; I was fighting to keep my eyelids from slamming shut and my head from smacking face first into the desk in front of me. With that huge carbohydrate rush and not much protein to slow its passage into my bloodstream, I’d get a daily sugar spike followed by an insulin surge that would quickly bring my glucose (and energy swell) to a screeching halt. Oh… the good ‘ole days of youthful idiocy. If I’d only replaced one of my heaping bowls of cereal with some scrambled eggs, staying awake in class would have been a lot easier.
If carbohydrates hit the stomach by themselves, they digest too quickly and send blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride. When those carbs are accompanied by a nice twenty to forty grams of protein, they’re digested and delivered to the blood stream at a slower and steadier pace. By keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel, we reduce the hunger pangs that typically trigger overeating.
Also, chronically high insulin levels that are typically caused by taking in too many carbohydrates simply set the stage for the body to store more fat. This is all the more reason to follow a “lose weight with protein” strategy by replacing some of those carbohydrate foods with high quality protein.
Protein allows us to feel satiated for longer periods between meals
Have you ever eaten some fruit, or a stack of pancakes, or a bagel by itself for breakfast and felt ravenous within just a couple of hours? Carbohydrates provide a terrific source of energy for the body – but they digest too rapidly and leave a void too quickly when consumed without protein foods. This naturally leads to the likelihood of overeating during the next meal. Lay down that base of protein in your stomach during each eating session and you’ll probably reduce your calories without any effort.
Protein has a higher “thermal effect” than carbohydrates or dietary fats
The thermal effect of a food is a measurement of how many calories get burned by the simple act of the body digesting and processing that food. For every 100 calories of dietary fat we eat, only about 2.5 to 3 calories are burned in order to digest that fat. By contrast, every 100 calories of carbohydrates will call on the body to burn about 5 to 10 calories in the digestion of those carbs.
So how many calories get burned up in the digestion of 100 calories of protein? Try somewhere between 20 and 30. Nice… our metabolisms speed up slightly when we increase protein intake. This is another great reason to utilize a ‘lose weight with protein’ strategy for body fat reduction and prevention of fat accumulation.
In a future entry, I’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of different protein sources.