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HEALTH & FITNESS ARTICLES

How Important is Protein for Fat Loss

I Didn't Realize How Important Protein Was For Fat Loss Until I Discovered Something That Blew My Mind...
By Nick Nilsson

Learn why protein is the often-forgotten critical factor in fat loss.

The year was 1992. I had just finished a long cycle of weight gain whereupon I had moved my bodyweight up from about 150 pounds to about 215 pounds. And let me just tell you, it wasn't all muscle!

I hadn't been all that careful about my diet previously but I thought I knew pretty well what I was doing. It was time to lose some of that fat.

The first thing I did was make the biggest mistake a dieter can make: in my focus of trying to eat only low fat foods, I unwittingly and drastically reduced the amount of protein that I was eating.

The result? I lost weight and plenty of it. The problem was, I lost mostly muscle! I was smaller, weaker, lighter and nearly as fat as I was before. Not quite the results I was looking for.

In retrospect, I know exactly what I did wrong and it's something I'll never do again.

I FORGOT ABOUT PROTEIN!

Protein is an extremely important nutrient whether your goal is to lose fat, gain muscle or just tone yourself up. It is the main structural nutrient in your body, making up the bulk of your muscles and organs. Protein is essential for proper hormone function and immune system health. Most importantly, for our purposes, protein is used for building and repairing muscle tissue.

When you are trying to lose fat, you reduce your calories. Unfortunately, your body views fat stores as more precious than your muscle tissue and will tend to eat up muscle tissue before it goes to fat for energy. This physiological adaptation used to protect our ancestors from famine but works against us now.

This is very unfortunate because muscle tissue is a great calorie-burner. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even when you're doing absolutely nothing! Protecting your muscle tissue makes fat loss so much easier, it will amaze you. Not only that, it will help you keep that fat off permanently!

What can you do to protect your muscle tissue?

The first thing you can do is exercise. Exercise, especially resistance training, provides a stimulus for your body that sends it a signal saying "keep this muscle, you're going to need it."

The second thing you can do is provide your body with enough protein. This can be in the form of food or supplements.

Good food sources of protein include chicken, fish, eggs, lean meats, legumes (beans), soy, and dairy products. Protein supplements are derived from food sources but are concentrated for convenience and effectiveness.

How much protein do you need?

The standard recommendation for athletes is between 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (or 0.5 to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight per day), though some research indicates a ratio as high as 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (0.9 grams per pound) is beneficial. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, you should try to eat between 75 and 105 grams and up to around 135 grams of protein per day.

Essentially, you should experiment with your protein intake to find out what works best for you. As far as importance in your supplement program goes, I would rank protein as next in importance to a good multi-vitamin.

When I made my first grand attempt at fat loss, I made the mistake of neglecting protein and it cost me. Don't make the same mistake I did!

How to Maximize The Results You Get From Your Protein Powder. Timing Is Everything!

Whether it be for fat loss or muscle gain, I always recommend taking a good protein supplement. The reason for this is simple: it is a convenient way to get high-quality protein without excess calories.

Be aware, however, that in no way am I advocating that you live on protein powder (like the dangerous Liquid Protein diets that used to be popular) alone. The key point to understand here is that a protein supplement is exactly what the name suggests: a supplement. It should be taken in addition to a nutritious diet in order to achieve a certain purpose, in this case increased protein intake.

Protein powders and protein bars can also be used as meal replacements on occasion, especially when you are on the go. They are far more nutritious than a fast food meal and more convenient.

The most popular and highest quality protein powder is whey protein. Whey is very digestable and is used efficiently in the body.

You can maximize the effects you get from your protein supplement simply by knowing exactly when to take it. Here is a list of the when, why and how of effective protein supplementation, ranked in order of importance.

1. Immediately After A Workout

If you only take protein once per day, this is the absolute best time to take it. Immediately after you finish your workout, your body needs raw materials to rebuild and recover with. If you don't supply the raw materials through eating, your body will break down muscle from elsewhere in your body in order to rebuild the damaged areas. This is very counterproductive as you can well imagine.

By taking in some protein (20 to 30 grams or so) within minutes after exercise, you provide your body with the raw materials it needs to recover without breaking down it's own muscle tissue.

2. An Hour After A Workout

About an hour following a workout, your body has settled down from the excitement and is ready to really start rebuilding. The protein that you took in immediately following the workout has been metabolized and your body is looking for more. Another protein shake at this time is a good way to help speed recovery. Try to take in another 20 to 30 grams about an hour after working out.

3. First Thing In The Morning

Immediately upon waking, or as soon after that as you can manage, take a scoop of protein powder. Your body has just been through an (approximately) 8 hour fast and is hungry for nutrients. Feed your body!

Protein powder is more quickly assimilated than solid food and gets into your muscles faster. This protein shot gives your metabolism a boost, which can help with fat loss. Be sure to follow it with a good breakfast, of course.

4. Last Thing At Night

Prepare your body for the long overnight fast by giving it a little something to work with. A good combination for this purpose is to mix a scoop of whey protein in with a small glass of milk.

Whey is what's known as a "fast" protein, meaning that it's digested quickly, while milk protein (casein) is what's known as a "slow" protein, meaning it's digested relatively slowly. At night, you want your protein to be metabolized slowly so that your body gets a more even supply over the course of the night. By mixing "fast" and "slow" proteins, you get the benefits of the higher-quality whey with the slower digestion time of the milk.

5. In-between Meals

A quick protein shake can be a great snack in between meals. It helps keep your body supplied with protein all day long. This is especially useful if you tend to have long periods of time in-between meals. It could mean the difference between losing muscle and building or keeping muscle!

6. With Meals

Taking a protein supplement with meals is a handy way to increase the protein content of a meal. This is perfect for when you ake a meal that is somewhat low in protein.

7. In The Middle Of The Night

This is a trick that bodybuilders sometimes use in order to keep their muscles supplied with protein throughout the night. Keep a pre-mixed protein shake right beside your bed. Although some trainers have been known to set alarms to wake up to drink it, I prefer to have it there waiting just in case I wake up, but I don't try to wake up on purpose. If I don't wake up, it's right there ready for me to drink first thing in the morning! This strategy is more targeted for muscle growth rather than fat loss.

WARNING!

Never drink a protein supplement immediately before working out!

Some people do this thinking that it will give them an energy boost or give them a head-start for post-workout recovery. Basically, all it does is sit in their stomach and bloat them up. Valuable blood that should be going to working muscles gets sent to the digestive system to try and digest it. The same warning goes for taking protein during a workout. Don't do it!

By following these protein-intake recommendations, you will increase the effectiveness of your supplementation. Even if you choose to take advantage of only one or two of these timing techniques, you will certainly see an improvement in your recovery ability.

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Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of the online personal training company BetterU, Inc. He has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been inventing new training techniques for more than 16 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding eBooks including "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of" all available at (Fitness-ebooks.com).
He can be contacted at betteru@fitstep.com.

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