Ok, here is your warning, this post is likely to involve mathematics!
If someone was to ask me (and they do, regularly) "What are the three most important lifestyle tips to lose weight?"
To start with, let's first clarify - when we talk about "losing weight" we actually mean reducing BODY FAT. ("fat" is not a swear word, so let's call it what it is!)
Now, I don't need to think about my answer for very long at all:
Regular, effective exercise - (3 times per week)
Make sure you are in a calorie deficit
Increase your protein intake.
Number 1 is fairly self explanatory, and if it isn't make sure you call Fitness in Time immediately!
Number 2, is very slightly more complicated, but in very simple terms it just means "make sure your body is using more energy than you take in through food & drink. If you need more tips on this, you won't have to scan our blog for long to find more info about this one.
But Number 3 is the one I'm going to talk about today...
Protein, is the most important part of your diet when it comes to two things; muscle-growth and fat-loss. And these two things are intrinsically linked. To put it very simply,
Body Fat is stored energy, which we measure in calories (Kcal).
Your muscles are the part of your body that burns energy that we can alter. Your brain uses a lot of energy, but we can't easily change how many by 'thinking more'. We can however change your body composition through correct nutrition and exercise.
So, by building muscle, our bodies will burn more calories.
So as protein is the building block of muscle, by increasing our intake of protein we can increase the amount of muscle. There are a couple of other good things about protein too:
Although not all sources agree on the exact figures, it is clear that protein has a much higher thermic effect of food (20-30%) compared to carbs (5-10%) and fat (0-3%) so if we go with a thermic effect of 30% for protein, this means that 100 calories of protein only end up as 70 usable calories.
Due to the high thermic effect and several other factors, a high protein intake tends to boost metabolism. It makes you burn more calories around the clock, including during sleep. A high protein intake has been shown to boost metabolism and increase the amount of calories burned by about 80 to 100 per day. This effect is particularly pronounced during overfeeding, or while eating at a caloric surplus. In one study, overfeeding with a high protein diet increased calories burned by 260 per day. By making you burn more calories, high protein diets have a “metabolic advantage” over diets that are lower in protein.
Protein can reduce hunger and appetite via several different mechanisms, this can lead to an automatic reduction in calorie intake. In other words, you end up eating fewer calories without having to count calories or consciously control portions. This works on a meal-to-meal basis, as well as a sustained day-to-day reduction in calorie intake as long as protein intake is kept high. So, high protein diets not only have a metabolic advantage – they also have an “appetite advantage,” making it much easier to cut calories compared to lower protein diets.
Another major problem is late-night snacking. Many people who have a tendency to gain weight get cravings at night, so they snack in the evening. These calories are added on top of all the calories they ate during the day. Interestingly, protein can have a powerful effect on both cravings and the desire to snack at night.
So How Do I Eat More Protein?
The obvious option is to try and opt for protein rich foods in your diet. High protein foods are:
Meats: Chicken, turkey, lean beef, pork, etc.
Fish: Salmon, sardines, haddock, trout, etc.
Eggs: All types.
Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
Legumes: Kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.
So make sure your meals have a good portion of protein in them. As a general rule, I try tom make sure my evening meal is made up of at least 25% protein, 25% simple carbs (like potato's or rice) and 50% vegetables. You should also be careful about the amount of fats and sugars (remember we need to be in that all-important calorie deficit!)
The other option is to have some form of protein supplement. Now you might think that protein shakes are only for body-builders and this really could not be further from the truth! Protein shakes, bars and powders are an easy way of making sure you are hitting your protein target. You can use them to replace a meal during the day (remember how we said that protein makes you feel fuller too). They can be added to foods - baked into cakes, added to smoothies etc. or better yet, taken as a post-workout snack, which is when your body needs it most, and more than likely when you are hungriest and would normally eat something unhealthy!
How much Protein should I be Eating
So here it is, the dreaded maths part! The number is obviously different for everyone and varies depending on what you goal is.
As a general rule, I would recommend 1.5g of protein for every kilo of bodyweight that you are. So if you weigh 100kg, you should be consuming 150g of protein per day. as there are approximately 4kcal in 1g of protein, this will be around 600kcal out of your calorie target, so the remaining calories should be through carbohydrate and fats, but make sure you don't go over your calorie target to keep you in that deficit!
If you want more guidance for a calorie & protein target, you can find a handy calculator by following this link or come and see us in the gym!