Hello loyal and determined fat loss lifestyle member! I too am one of you, and everyone here at Lifestyle and Strength are part of the solution. Fat loss is a real challenge for most, and somewhat of a mystery for those attempting it. If you have tuned in for part one and part two of Fat Loss Facts, then you learned in the first article that in order to lose body fat you must first create a caloric deficit. In the second article you learned how to calculate your caloric total for the purposes of creating that caloric deficit, so you can begin shedding that unwanted fat. If you missed those two, I urge you to go back and read them. The purpose of this series is to demystify the fat loss process so that you can design your own diet that will be superior to any, as this one will be designed for you, by you.
Today I am going to begin looking at the macro nutrient breakdown of your soon to be self designed diet. The first, and arguably most important nutrient in any fat loss recipe is protein. One of the most obvious reasons as to why protein intake is so important in a fat loss diet is that the goal is to be made up of more protein (muscle), and less of the other stuff. The other stuff being fat and glycogen. It is not as simple as eat protein and become protein, but it is definitely a good start. Strangely, carbohydrate is usually included in fat loss diets as a protein sparing measure, however there is something even more effective at sparing protein than carbs – protein. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
Also, as was mentioned in Fat Loss Facts part 1, protein is the most thermogenic of the three macro nutrients. By contrast, consuming equal quantities of protein or carbohydrate will result in fewer calories available for the body to use due to protein’s thermic effect. This fact makes the consumption of protein a no brainer. Eat more of it to lose more fat. That’s not the whole story of course, but that’s the general idea.
Thirdly, when we speak of protein’s value in any kind of calorically restrictive diet, we need to mention its hunger blunting effect. This is due to the fact that protein is extremely effective at keeping blood glucose levels stable during dieting. If you are consuming lean protein sources, then it is going to be very difficult to consume very many calories by eating a lot of protein. Foods like chicken or turkey breasts will provide you with lots of muscle sparing protein, there will be a positive thermic effect on your metabolism, and your hunger will be diminished. That’s three very good arguments for protein’s value as a fat loss aid, never mind the fact that it is absolutely necessary as well for your continued good health.
None of this has addressed how much protein we should eat in our quest to lose body fat, but that is about to change. As you have already surmised from the above information, protein is pretty important, and therefore likely to be most effective if consumed in decent quantities. If that’s the conclusion you have drawn you are correct, but I think we need to go into a little more detail than just saying eat lots of protein.
When I get into the specifics of protein requirements while dieting for the purpose of fat loss, I’m going to give numbers that deal with average people regarding body fat levels. If you are extremely lean already, then these protein requirements may be too low. The less body fat and the more lean mass one has, dictates a higher need for protein to sustain the body that is made mostly of muscle. The opposite is also true. If you have very high levels of body fat, and therefore less lean body mass, your protein requirements will be less. Let this also serve as notice to those that are making great progress in their fat loss goals – you will need to add more protein to your current diet as you progress to hang on to that valuable muscle.
So where is a good starting point to set your protein needs as you begin your fat loss diet? If we look at bodybuilders whose goals are to step onstage with minimal levels of body fat and maximal levels of muscle, the general rule they follow is one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This seems like a reasonable level to start at, but I know bodybuilders, and this number seems far too conservative for those that live at such extremes. This may be the guideline that they use to roughly map out the beginning of their diet four months from competition, but I bet the real number is at least double that.
It’s the number in the middle that I would suggest as a good jumping off point. One and a half grams of protein per pound of body weight is a good amount of protein to preserve lean body mass while at the same time restricting calories, as well as to provide a thermic effect due to the quantity and percentage of protein consumed within the caloric boundaries, and to provide a feeling of well-being and fullness. Protein makes us feel good, and suppresses appetite as we have already discussed. No one will abide by a diet for long if they feel awful and hungry all the time. That is why I would begin at this number, and adjust upwardly from it. In reality, my personal day-to-day diet is at this number, and at least two grams per pound when I am attempting fat loss.
Another reason why I like to have this number be a little on the high side is because we haven’t factored in activity levels. Anyone reading here is likely to be in at least the moderate training activity category, and as such the extra protein will be required for recuperation. Not consuming enough protein, as well as being in a caloric deficit is a recipe for disaster. It’s a sure-fire way to lose muscle and hit that burnout threshold in a hurry too. Our body’s are incredible and adaptable in almost every way, but after a while of not getting its needs met, our body will just force you to stop training either due to injury or illness.
Now we have the chief macro nutrient figure out. We know how much protein to include in our diet. A 150 pound person would be wise to start their diet with a daily protein intake of one and a half pounds per pound of body weight for a total of 225 grams of protein per day. Protein is four calories per gram so that breaks down to 900 calories of the available 1650 – 1950 calories, depending on how large a deficit you are trying to create. That leaves 750 – 1050 calories for the other two macro nutrients, those being fats and carbohydrate. I will address those on the next installment of Fat Loss Facts.
If you have read all three parts up to this point, you have enough information to begin building your own diet. There is more to know yes, but these are enough tools to begin experimenting. You know you need to create a caloric deficit, how to calculate your caloric totals in order to create that deficit, and you know how much protein needs to be part of the plan. Of course the rest is just as important to know, and you can count on me to get that information to you when this series continues.
This article was researched and written by Matt Taylor
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