You hear us Coaches ranting on about eating enough protein all the time. Lads will occasionally lift an eyebrow when told how much protein they need to be eating when training but girls often nearly fall over. Needless to say, plenty of good quality Carbohydrates and some rich fats are also required eating when lifting heavy and working the physique. But when it comes to dieting, cutting, leaning out, or whatever name you wish to put on eating less and getting leaner, you may be surprised to hear that your protein levels become even more important than when building.
After the Protein in your diet is broken down by your digestive system it is shuttled all throughout your body where it is used for a host of different physiological functions. From growth, either in terms of muscle, or, as in the case of a child, overall growth; to repairing bodily tissue such as muscle and skin, to the creation of other proteins, enzymes and hormones; and even in the creation of energy to power the body; protein does the lot. So you can see why it can easily be labeled the Hardest working of the Macro nutrients. And with so many jobs to do it should be starting to become clear to you just how important it is to get the right amount of it in your diet.
For the purpose of this article we are going to be looking at one of the less well know uses for protein, its use as a source of energy. The body is a remarkable devise that requires a fair amount energy to make it work and move and do all the behind the scene things that keep us alive and Kicking. To gain access to this energy the body can use just about anything we can eat for fuel if it needs to; Including Protein. Of the 3 Macro nutrients, Carbs, fats and proteins, protein is the hardest one for the body to convert to energy and the one that produces the most amount of waste. This is due to the fact that Protein is the only Macro that comes attached to Nitrogen and that this nitrogen must first be separated from the Amino acid in order for it to be used as a fuel source. And under normal circumstances this would not be an issue because the body will be using carbs and fats as its fuel source but when we are dieting down we re not talking about… normal circumstances.
When we are dieting, particularly when we are on low carb diets, our easy supply of carbs and fats become limited and the body will start to burn Protein for fuel. Now, as we mentioned earlier, the body first has to disassemble the nitrogen from the amino acids before it can convert the protein to fuel. The problem, is that the nitrogen is the reason protein can be used to make hormones and enzymes and repair the structures of the body and once that nitrogen has been stripped away then there is no putting it back. The Protein no longer has the ability to do the jobs that most people think it does when they eat it. And the problem is only magnified even further if the training on a low carb diet is particularly hard on the body such as they types of training done when people try to get very lean, and can even lead to a catabolic state where the body starts to break down the muscle of the body for fuel. And does anybody reading this need to be reminded that every bit of muscle lost reduces the body’s ability to burn fat.
So know we know why we might need more protein when we are dieting. So the next question has to be… so how much protein do i need? This is one question with a lot of different answers. However we can stick to a couple of simple rules. The amount of protein needed can of course vary depending on your lifestyle. If you spend you life sitting on your arse doing nothing all day; well your needs are going to be pretty low. Also, another important factor to take into account can be your weight. The more over weight you are when you start the training process to lose weight the less protein you may need for short periods of time due to a factor called Fat availability; but this is a bit outside of the scope of this article and something you should be discussing with your coach. And if they don’t know anything about it, then drop me a line.
However we are going to assume you spend a fair amount of time in a gym already since you are reading this article and that your aim right now is probably dieting down.
The simplest sure fire protein calculator you can use is you weight.
Just multiply your weight in lbs by 1 or your weight in Kg by 2. This number will give a best all round number for the amount of protein you need to be taking in to insure all your protein needs are being met as you loose weight without loosing valuable calorie burning muscle in the process.