I've eaten moderate protein diets and I've eaten high protein diets - but I've never eaten a low protein diet!
... and there's a good reason for this.
Out of the Three Main Micronutrients (Carbohydrates, Fats, Protein) Protein is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT macronutrient.
Is that a bold statement? Well.. not really, here's why.
Protein supplies 4Kcals per gram, the same as carbohydrates and can be broken down to provide energy for the body but you'd almost have to be in starvation mode for this to happen, so it's not really is primary use.
So what is its primary use?
Well to start with, protein from the food we eat (Chicken, Fish and Eggs) is broken down into what's called 'Amino Acids' - mostly by digestion in the stomach and then taken into the small intestine.
These amino acids are the key building blocks of protein and assist with the Two Primary Tasks Which Is Why... We Need to Consume Protein in the Diet on a Daily Basis!
Notice I said Daily and NOT Hourly...
The First one is what's called a 'Functional Protein Requirement' - whereby they provide some sort of specific task such as making the enzymes in your stomach that help break down other foods. These are actually made by Amino Acids.
On top of that, a large proportion of the cells in your body and brain are made or regenerated by these amino acids - so you can see how these tasks require daily intake of protein just to keep living... which is super important.
The Second Requirement is for Structure.
This is the one I'm going to focus on as it's relevant to this blog post. The structures I'm talking about are bone to an extent but even more so, muscle and both have a protein structure to them.
Muscle has so much protein in it that if you likened muscle to being a building... The protein would be the bricks. So you can see that if you wanted to build a higher building, or put an extension on it you'd better have a good supply of bricks to build it. (That's the Protein!)
So just to reiterate, protein is hugely important for function, but if you're trying to build lean muscle or retain muscle - as you lose body fat you need to take care of the amount you eat on a daily basis to fulfil the structural requirement.
You'd better have a good supply of bricks!
Let's talk a bit more about the science of protein requirements...
Anytime you are building muscle there's a rate at which it can grow and this is called the Fractional Synthetic Rate (FSR) of muscle tissue. This is the demand of amino acids (building bricks of protein) to use those amino acids to construct new muscle protein or simply muscle.
If there are no Amino's available from the food we eat, then muscle growth slows down and can occur at the expense of taking amino acids from the other muscles, believe me when I tell you that this isn't good!
Now obviously, we want the 'FSR' to remain high if we are to grow new muscle tissue or retain existing when dieting as most people who do the Kettlercise® Program are trying to do. Keeping a fairly steady supply of Amino acids into your system (via the protein we eat) is important to achieve and here's why:
Muscle has quite a large turnover as it's a very dynamic substance with some muscle being built and some being degraded on a daily basis. Now, some degradation is important as due to that dynamic nature it can repair and grow stronger; especially after stimulation by exercise.
Think of muscle like a machine with cogs as components of that machine!
These cogs can wear out, or break and need to be replaced with new ones. Well, the amino acids are like those new cogs that get replaced in order for that machine to keep turning over.
Now if the rate of breaking of the cogs exceeds the rate at which the cogs are replaced then the machine will grind to a halt and in the muscles case, they will get small and weak. We don't want that as muscle burns calories even at rest!
This is what's known as the 'Fractional Breakdown Rate' (FBR) and is basically the rate at which protein is broken down by the body for all its tasks which if you remember includes functional and structural ones.
You can see that in an ideal situation we would like to increase the Fractional Synthetic Rate (the speed of muscle building) and decrease the Fractional Breakdown Rate (speed of muscle loss) - or have a high FSR-FBR ratio. We will under the right circumstances build or keep muscle while losing body fat and this is the best scenario to have. Believe me when I tell you if you lose 7lb of fat and gain 3lb of muscle, you will look significantly different - although the scales may only show 4lb loss.
So how much protein do we actually need to achieve this state of maintaining muscle while decreasing body fat or FSR-FBR Ratio and is more protein better?
More Is Better! But only up to the point that satisfies your structural and functional demands and only because most people don't actually eat enough to achieve this high FSR-FBR Ratio.
Let's look at the 'is more better' side of that question...
Both long term and short term studies show that there are no negative side effects to the body from overeating protein as long as there's no existing medical condition. Since the body can handle quite a lot, the real issue is in relation to overall calories and if you are in a calorie surplus and overeat on protein the excess will be converted to either energy or fat. It's kinda that simple really.
If you're trying to lose body fat and you're on a set number of calories, the increase in protein would have to come at the expense of one of the other macronutrients like Carbohydrates or Fats and while you might think that's a good thing, it might not be the case. Remember, Carbohydrates fuel the intensive workouts required to keep muscle and fats provide essential nutrients and are satiating.
So if you need to cap protein off at an amount that satisfies the functions of muscle growth and repair what is that amount?
Well it would seem that between 0.8g and 1g per pound of bodyweight is right for the average trainee. So a 130lb Individual would require between 104g and 130g of protein per day. I personally would aim for the top figure and then if you don't quite hit it on some days, it's not going to matter.
What about absorption at one meal?
Although the body can utilise quite 'varying amounts' of protein, there seems to be this blanket 25-30g of protein being the max at any one time. THIS IS JUST NOT TRUE! and it's usually based on the following premise:
All foods must pass though the small intestine within 2-3 hrs.
Fortunately, the body is able to regulate the speed at which protein moves through the small intestine to ensure it absorbs most, if not all the amino acids.
Just one study at the National Human Nutrition Centre in France found that when women were given 54g of protein in either a single meal or spread over 4 meals over the course of 14 days no difference in protein metabolism was recorded over.
I wouldn't eat my allocation in only 2 meals as that would stop the flow of amino's going into the blood stream when going longer than 5-6 hrs without eating, but it illustrates a point.
Personally, I aim for about 45g at each meal eating 5 meals per day to get in about 220g per day, which is my top end figure for daily protein intake.
"Immediately after training, I have a whey based recovery shake like our L8 Lean Burn to get Aminos into my System Quickly"
So we've learned that to keep muscle while potentially reducing calories to lose body fat aim for between 0.8g and 1g per pound of bodyweight per day.
We've also learnt that although the body can actually absorb more than we think in one go, we don't want to go more than about 4 hrs without supplying the body with some protein.
Therefore, all you have to do is work out how much protein you need on a daily basis and divide it by the amount of meals you're going to eat per day. It's that simple.
Then the last thing you need to do, and this is probably as important as the rest... BE CONSISTENT WITH IT! Hitting the optimum amount one day and then being way off the next two is just no good if you’re serious about losing body fat.
Put these tips to use and see how much better you recover after training.