Find out how a higher protein diet can lead to favourable changes in muscle growth and fat loss!
If you’re on this side of the dirt then you’re familiar with the term, “protein”. It’s arguably the most talked about term in nutrition.
You probably know you need it. You may even know you need a lot of it. However, it’s likely you don’t fully understand just how important this macronutrient is to your health and fitness.
I’ve never had one person come to me with the goal of looking better who was eating too much. However, I have found that inadequate protein intake to be a contributing factor in every client struggling with body composition.
Every macronutrient has its place (see How To Build A Diet Plan), but protein is paramount – especially for fat loss. So, if you’re working hard to lose weight, but have a history of failed attempts – look to protein. You need every advantage you can get in the battle for a better body and protein will fight for you.
Muscle tissue is composed of fibers. The smallest components of muscle fibers are the actin and myosin protein microfilaments. According to the sliding filament theory, the central nervous system signals these overlapping microfilaments to contract. This causes them to slide across one another, which creates a muscle contraction.
When we perform resistance training, our muscles become damaged. As a result, the body initiates a repair process, which requires protein to manufacture new cells. This repair process is the primary function of dietary protein.
If you’ve ever given up on a diet it was likely because you couldn’t beat the hunger. Don’t feel bad. In fact, it’s your body’s job to recognize hunger and send you signals to encourage you to eat.
Centuries ago when food was scarce this mechanism kept us alive. However, times have changed. As most of us today have access to food at all times. Regardless, this evolutionary survival mechanism is responsible for why diets fail.
The key to avoiding the body’s hunger responses is to enter a calorie deficit without promoting extreme hunger. This can be done, first and foremost, by avoiding harsh dieting and extreme calorie deficits. As well as eating highly satiating (filling) foods.
Ever noticed how much easier it is to fill up on grilled chicken than it is on potato chips? Studies have shown protein to be highly satiating as it causes our intestines to secrete hormones (i.e peptide YY, glucagon-like peptide-1, and ghrelin).1 These hormones decrease blood sugar levels and cause a reduction in appetite. So, if you’re trying to avoid the hunger while on a diet then consider adding more protein in your next attempt.
The thermic effect of food (TEF) is the energy required to digest each macronutrient.
Fat contains 9 calories per gram with a TEF of 0 – 5%
Carbohydrate contains 4 calories per gram with a TEF of 5 – 10%
Protein contains 4 calories per gram with a TEF of 20 – 30%
This means your body burns 3x to 5x more calories to digest protein than it does carbohydrates or fat. So, while the golden rules for weight loss revolve around calories in versus calories out, you’ll actually expend more calories when you consume protein.
How much protein do I need per day?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight a day for adults. This is a minimum requirement. Hard-training athletes require more.
A general recommendation is to consume a gram of protein per pound of body weight a day. This requirement can go up to 1.2g – 1.5g per pound of body weight for athletes following a calorie-restricted diet.
What does all of this mean for you?
We know that the primary role of dietary protein is to illicit muscle reparation. We also know that a high-protein diet will lead to greater muscle growth, assuming proper calories are consumed.
More lean muscle mass means a greater metabolism (increased calorie burning). It also means that when you strip away that layer of fat you’ll have more muscle.
What’s more, even during a calorie-reduced diet, protein can help maintain the muscle you’ve worked so hard for.
Additionally, increasing your protein intake while dieting for fat loss will increase your chances of success. Due to the fact it’s highly satiating, a high-protein diet will help you feel full. This makes it less likely for you to eat more than the amount of calories needed per meal.
Protein intake should also be a priority when dieting due to its high thermic effect. Since you burn 3x to 5x more calories to digest protein than carbs or fat then increasing your protein intake will inherently increase your calorie expenditure.
If you’re looking to improve your health and fitness, every food group and macronutrient has its place in a perfect diet plan. If you’re looking for the macronutrient that will help you most in your fight against fat, look no further than protein. Whether you eat it or drink it, you need to get it.
Author: Tyler Minton
Tyler “Melee” Minton is one of the most recognized Nutrition Coaches in the UFC. Having worked with hundreds of professional mixed martial artists including many world champions, Tyler’s coaching services are sought after by professional athletes and the general population alike. Applying his education and experience, Tyler promotes a no-nonsense, science-based approach to nutrition and it’s why he’s part of the PERFECT Sports Advisory Board.