Protein is an important macronutrient that is involved in nearly all bodily functions and processes. It plays a key role in exercise recovery and is an essential dietary nutrient for healthy living. The elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen combine to form amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Protein and amino acids are primarily used to create bodily tissues, form enzymes and cellular transporters, maintain fluid balance, and more.
If fat loss is your goal, protein can play an important role and there are four main areas which protein has a direct effect:
- Lean mass
- Thermic effect of food
- Storage as body fat
Protein helps you feel full longer: Protein is the most satiating of all the macronutrients and a higher protein intake tends to provide more satiety and less hunger. Studies have shown that consuming roughly 0.82 – 1.32 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight provides substantial benefits on satiety.
So for a 150lb athlete that works out to 123 – 198g of protein per day.
Protein preserves lean body mass during periods of caloric restriction: Studies have shown that in calorie-reduced diets, those that eat higher amounts of protein lose less muscle mass than those with low protein intake. Evidence suggests that ~0.73 grams of protein per pound of body weight is a recommended daily target for protein intake to spare lean body mass loss during periods of weight loss.
So for a 150lb athlete that works out to 109.5g of protein per day.
Protein increases the thermic effect of food: The thermic effect of food is the ‘cost’ of digesting your food. Essentially, it takes energy to digest food and turn it into energy and protein has the highest ‘cost’ of all three macronutrients. While the total effect that the thermic effect of food has on your daily caloric expenditure is small, it is not meaningless and is important to note. Some studies have shown that a high protein diet increased the thermic effect of food by about 6-8cals/hour compared to low protein diets, which may translate to about 50-70 calories per day.
Protein is hard to store as body fat: When you eat more calories than you burn you tend to gain body fat and your body processes the three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) in very different ways. Protein goes through a very different biochemical process than carbs or fat and this process makes it much harder for protein to be stored as body fat. Studies show that protein is stored as body fat with ~66% efficiency, compared to 80% efficiency for carbs and 96% for fat.
So your challenge this week is to add an extra serving of protein each day.