More Protein, More Muscle, Less Fat
When I have my initial consultation with people the conversation eventually ends up on dieting and nutrition. Everybody is very excited about being told what to eat and when to eat it until you tell them what to eat and when to eat it and they actually are expected to do it. I pretty much stopped writing specific diet plans for this very reason. They were rarely followed for any length of time. I find that if people can track what they eat for a few days, then adjustments can be made to what they are already doing to bring the macros and calories in line to make their success rate much higher. Of course if someone is not willing to track for any length of time, then they are not really invested in making the body composition changes they claim they want . . . but that is a whole different topic.
When people begin to track consistently, a very common pattern usually appears, especially with females. It is not uncommon to see protein intake at below 20% of their total calories, with most of it coming from low quality sources. To make significant body composition changes, I like to see around 40% of total calories from high quality protein sources. I find that if I can get clients to hit their protein and total calorie targets reasonably closely, carbs and fat pretty much take care of themselves. It’s pretty simple really. If your protein and calorie targets are met it's impossible to have a ton of crappy food. The numbers just won’t work.
Getting people to change what they are doing can be difficult. They need a reason beyond “because I said so”. There are many reasons to up your protein intake if it is low but here are 3 important ones if body composition is important to you.
Reduced hunger levels
If you are trying to reduce body fat, being able to control appetite and hunger are very important. Nobody likes to be hungry and most people will not stay hungry for extended periods of time. This is a huge factor in why most diets fail. Protein has a very satiating effect meaning it will help you feel full faster and stay satisfied longer. This can help you control your overall calorie intake without too much suffering, and in the long run that makes the biggest difference in improving body composition.
Helps control craving
This goes hand in hand with the last point but is very important. Cravings are different than normal hunger and unfortunately can be very hard to control. It’s been my experience that if two people eat about the same level of calories, the one that ate much lower levels of protein had far more and intense cravings. This usually leads to a binge that sets back any progress they might have made and starts the cycle all over again. I am not saying you will never have craving if you eat more protein, but it seems to reduce the frequency and the intensity of them, which can be helpful in sticking to your plan.
Protein supports muscle mass
If you are trying to get leaner you should be concerned about your lean muscle mass. Protein forms the building blocks of muscle tissue and having a higher level of muscle mass will by default make you burn more calories throughout the day. Adequate protein will also help you maintain muscle mass when you are leaning out, which requires a calorie deficit. If you lose 10lbs but 5 of it is muscle, you are going in the wrong direction. Improving body composition is about losing body fat and maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. Eating enough protein and lifting weights give you the best opportunity to do that.
I don’t expect anyone to double their protein intake overnight. In fact it is probably a bad idea digestion wise. Increasing the quality of your protein intake and then gradually increasing the quantity can help you reach your goals faster, and that is well worth the effort to me.
Hope this helps you out. Talk to you again soon.