Blog by: Jyoti Hassanandani
“If you don’t like what you see in the mirror,
what difference does it make what the scale says?” – Vince Giranda
Protein is one answer to a weight loss aspirant’s many questions like:
- What should I eat?
- I have to control my calorie intake. How can I then handle hunger?
- Why I don’t feel good about myself even after losing several kilos of weight?
- Why after losing weight my body feels flaccid?
Surprisingly, the role of protein in diet is still understated and underestimated. Many people still demonize protein. Talk about increasing protein intake and this is what you hear:
- Increasing protein intake will make me bulky.
- High protein diet will impair my kidney and liver function.
And what about the high carbs and high fat diet that has brought you to this point? Hasn’t it adversely impacted your body’s health already, put extra load on your heart and your overall existence in general?
It’s high time to re-educate ourselves and topple the walls of myth we have created around us. Healthy kidneys can handle plenty of protein. They are meant to handle protein. One of their primary functions of kidneys is to process the metabolic waste that results from protein metabolism. Yes protein “works” the kidneys, but that’s what they’re there for!!
High protein diet do not mean overloading your body with protein. High protein means optimizing your protein intake so that you are providing enough of this macro nutrients on a daily basis so that body does its work of rebuilding you efficiently.
Note – Compromised kidneys or liver may not be able to handle excess protein. If you already have any such condition you should always check with your doctor first before deciding to bring about any change in your diet or physical activity.
HOW TO HARNESS PROTEIN PROPERTIES
PROPERTY 1 – CALORIES FROM PROTEIN DO NOT ADD UP
Yes. Protein is your body’s building block and never your body’s primary source of energy. It is primarily used by body to build and repair muscle tissues and cells. Body needs that protein to fix every day’s wear and tear. Workout or don’t workout you HAVE TO provide your body with a certain amount of protein everyday.
However here it is important to note that there are several scenarios where your body is compelled to use protein as an energy source or even catabolize muscle tissue to get energy:
- When your carbohydrates and fat intake is too low
- Training intensely for a long time.
- Not taking enough carbohydrates and protein pre-workout and post-workout.
- Going on a very low calorie diet for a very long time.
- You are consuming enough fat and carbohydrates but your protein consumption is too low.
Body needs calories to maintain muscle mass. If calories from fats and carbohydrates aren’t enough body will start eating muscle or burn protein your are eating for fuel.
All this explains why your body feels unfirm after suddenly losing kilos and you don’t
feel happy about losing weight. You lost fat, muscle and water from your body by not feeding it adequately with essential macro nutrients for a very long time. That sort of weight loss surely is undesirable. We want to target fat loss and not just weight loss!!
Here is where protein power comes into picture. You have to cut your calories from fat and carbohydrates but never go too low especially on carbohydrates as that is your body’s primary source of energy. And add up protein. Find out how much protein your body needs and bring your protein consumption to the optimum level. You can safely do that without caring for calories because those calories are being used for essential repair work:
repair every day’s wear and tear + repair work body has to do after your workout
If you don’t do that body will start breaking down muscle tissue for energy. That’s why you see muscle degeneration when you are on a crash diet.
PROPERTY 2 – PROTEIN KEEPS HUNGER AT BAY FOR A VERY LONG TIME
It takes longer time to break and assimilate protein. This keeps your blood sugar level steady and hence you feel fuller for longer duration. Unlike carbohydrates or fats which are digested quickly as they are body’s main source of energy. And so your hunger shoots up quickly.
Use this to your advantage. Every meal try to add something high in protein like chicken, eggs, fish, whey [post workout] etc. So you will not feel hungry soon. Here it is also important to note that you should never eat too much protein at one time. Body will not be able to effectively utilize that protein. Excess protein do get converted to fat. So always try to keep around 30-35 grams of protein at a time. This will in fact be a good strategy to divide your protein intake into several meals.
PROPERTY 3 – PROTEIN THERMOGENIC EFFECT IS MUCH HIGHER
A high protein diet improves metabolic rate because of thermic effect of protein. Understand thermogenesis. It is process of heat production in an organism. In simpler words, calories used by body to digest food or to burn the macro nutrients. This is called diet-induced thermogenesis. The thermogenic effect of protein is much much higher than the thermogenic effect of carbs or fats. Which simply means that if you eat high protein the body will have to use more calories to synthesize protein while to synthesize the same amount of carbs the body will require almost half of what it needed for protein. For fats the calories required to metabolize it is even lesser than carbs.
Thermic effect of different macro nutrients:
Protein: 20-35% of calories burned through processing Carbohydrates: 5-15% of calories burned through processing Fats: 0-5% of calories burned through processing
So eat high protein diet everyday and limit fats and carbs. Body will burn more calories than what it usually does. Since you also limited your fat and carbs intake so when body needs this extra calories it tends to burn stored fats. And hence you lose weight or fat.
PROPERTY 4 – PROTEIN BUILDS MUSCLE MASS
Proper training and adequate protein intake builds muscle mass. Following things are very important to understand:
- With increase in muscle mass, the body’s metabolic rate goes up. This is because body needs calories to maintain muscle mass. So body will burn extra calories per hour per pound of muscle you have gained.
- Muscle is much more dense than fat. So a pound of muscle occupies less space than a pound of fat. So person with high muscle mass is leaner and more toned.
- Developing muscle gives form and shape to your body.
So if you want to get a toned body with proper shape you should always strength train and time your protein intake. Eat in such a way that you lose fat at the same time gain muscle mass. Optimize macro nutrient intake. This will prevent body from losing any firmness and in turn body will gain muscle. You will feel good about getting in shape. Also with increase in muscle mass body will burn more calories from fat and carbs each day.