I read a lot of food journals throughout my week as a coach, and a lack of protein is the #1 mistake I see people make.
So what’s the deal with including this macronutrient?
Protein is present everywhere in the body including your muscles, bones, connective tissue, blood vessels, blood cells, skin, hair and even your finger nails! The protein in your body is constantly being lost or broken down as a result of normal physiological wear and tear, aka life!
You can not survive with out protein. It’s a key player in the repair and construction of muscle tissue, otherwise known as building your pipes.
It’s important (for obvious reasons) to keep a steady amount of protein in your diet throughout your day but it’s particularly important to ensure you have adequate protein post training.
When you stress your muscles (this is a good thing that happens when you train) with resistance training, your brain tells your muscle cells to start making new proteins. (Envision your brain like a chief plant manager, hard hat and all, telling the assembly line to hurry it up and get producing more protein ASAP!). In order for the production to take place, there must be enough amino acids available to make it happen. By keeping your body supplied with protein throughout your day and especially post training, you are able to keep yourself in an ‘anabolic’ state (muscle building) versus a catabolic state (when muscle loss occurs).
This is why a post training shake is specifically recommended, since your body will digest liquid calories at a faster rate and you will also be able to provide your body with much needed protein.
In terms of fat loss, studies suggest that higher protein diets promote greater fat loss because your body has to work harder to digest protein versus carbohydrate,know as the thermogenic effect. Also, time and time again the research demonstrates that higher protein diets lead to an improved state of satiety, fancy lingo for saying you feel fuller for a longer period of time and are less likely to grab the chocolate sitting in the staff room!
With all this being said, amping up your protein intake doesn’t equate to instant muscle, you have to earn it with your training! Also any surplus of calories from protein can be converted into body fat, so it’s a matter of balance, which is key when planning out what you eat.
The best way to ensure you are getting enough protein is to include a portion at each meal. While you don’t need to reach for the 12 oz steak, aim to include complete protein sources like eggs, animal meats and dairy protein found in cottage cheese, greek yogurt and milk.