If you look around your local supermarket there seems to be an increase in the number protein foods that are available… Even Snickers and Mars bars now do a high protein version, but you still need to watch the calories! So, is this just another fitness fad, is protein actually important or is it, like many people think, just for bodybuilders?
Protein is essential for building muscle. Once digested, it is broken down into the muscles’ building blocks which are called amino acids; therefore, getting enough protein is essential for those who want to build muscle. However, building muscle is also dependant on the stress we put on the body through resistance training in order to create an adaptation. So a high protein diet without the right training and enough calories to support muscle growth will not lead to muscle growth. Women who fear high protein diets because they do not want to get ‘bulky’ need not worry for another important reason, and that is the absence of the muscle building hormone testosterone. It is much harder for women to build muscle, and a high protein diet, even combined with resistance training will lead to an athletic, toned physique… Not massive amounts of bulk that some women fear.
So why would someone not wanting to build muscle have a high protein diet? Well firstly, protein will help protect muscle when you are on a calorific deficit. This is important for those wanting to lose body fat for a number of reasons: Losing muscle is not going to be good for the body in the long run. Remember, protein is not just responsible for muscle, it is essential in many of the body’s structures and organs and are used to create enzymes that allow every process in the body to take place… Including fat loss! Protecting muscle is also important to maintain your metabolic rate; muscle is a highly active tissue and is responsible in a large part for how much energy we need each day. If we crash diet, especially without adequate protein, then we will lose muscle, reduce our metabolism and fat loss becomes even harder.
One added bonus is that protein is the most ‘satiating’ or filling macronutrient. This means that having more protein in the diet will keep you feeling fuller and less hungry, which is important on any fat loss plan. It might come as a surprise, but leading fat loss experts actually recommend protein intakes for people looking to lose body fat should be at a higher level than those looking to build muscle! The simple reason for this is that when we are building muscle, we would usually be eating enough calories that muscle loss and hunger would not be an issue, whereas as for fat loss we need to provide enough protein to prevent muscle loss and keep us feeling full! Interestingly, it is possible to lose body fat and gain muscle at the same time in specific groups of people, even when on a calorie deficit… but that topic is for another time!
Thanks for reading,