Most guys reach a point in their training when they realize it’s time to shed some fat, and most also grasp the fundamental principle involved in that endeavor: burning more calories than you take in. But did you ever stop to consider the importance that protein to lose fat plays in the fat-loss process?
If you thought that protein was only good for gaining muscle, then it’s time for a refresher on every bodybuilder’s favorite nutrient.
Here is a quick guide to why and how much protein you need to lose fat.
(This post contains affiliate links to Amazon listings for the products being discussed.)
Why You Need Protein
Just about every tissue in your body, and especially your muscle, is made up of proteins, which in turn are built from amino acids. While your body can build some of those aminos from many of the foods you eat, there are eight that your body cannot produce on its own, and they’re dubbed the essential amino acids.
The essential aminos, then, must come directly from the foods that you eat, and that means protein. Foods that contain all eight of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins and include choices like lean meats, dairy products, eggs, fish, and poultry.
So why do you need to worry about your muscles, and thus your protein intake, when you’re trying to lose weight? It’s all about activity and your body composition.
Simply put, muscle is your most active bodily tissue, and it burns calories even when it’s not doing much of anything. That makes muscle one of your best secret weapons when you’re trying to get lean, and you should strive to build more lean tissue even as you’re shedding fat.
Now, most guys won’t be able to do both things — gain muscle and lose fat — at the same time, but you should train with that goal in mind. Even if you can just hang on to the majority of the muscle you have built, you will get leaner faster and will be better positioned for a muscular rebound once you stop dieting.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Even after decades of study and trials, there is still much debate about just how much protein you need. A good general rule of thumb for gaining mass, though, is to target one gram of complete protein per pound of body weight per day.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you probably need less, right? That may make sense on the surface, but the opposite is true for most hard-training athletes.
During times of reduced caloric intake, your metabolic stress is even higher than it normally is, particularly if you’re still training hard with weights. And remember, you want to hang on to as much muscle as possible, so you MUST continue to bang away at the iron.
In order to repair the damage done to your muscles and your other tissues when you couple dieting with intense weight training, you need at least as much protein as you were taking in during your “bulk” phase. A good plan is to stick with the one-gram-per-pound-per-day metric to start with, and then adjust up or down depending on your rate of weight loss, your energy levels, and your appearance on a weekly basis.
Target Health First
As with all other physical endeavors, fat loss should be used as a means to make you healthier in addition to making you look and feel better. Before you begin any program, see your physician for a complete physical and to discuss your plans. When you have the OK and get your program lined out, don’t forget that protein is vitally important to your weight-loss goals.