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MUSCLE MASS, FAT LOSS AND PROTEIN



In this day and age, there are many different types of “fitness buffs” out there, so many more than when I was coming up in the business. Many of these people have a different perspective on things like supplements than the average hardcore bodybuilder. Despite that, one thing we all have in common is the need for extra protein in our eating plans. As a bodybuilder, I believe in high protein. I have now begun to think that even more than the usual 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight may be the way to go. Why, you might ask? If you look at it, you can only eat so much fat and so many carbs with healthy fat being typically 20% of total calorie intake at the most. Carbs are important as they fuel the body and must be eaten in enough quantities to replenish what you burn up in your workouts as well as fuel your other activities. Yet, more than what is required for those needs will be stored as fat, this being one of the causes of obesity in this country – people do not understand the role of macro-nutrients. Of the three macro nutrients, protein is the least likely to be stored as fat. It also takes more calories to digest protein than it does to digest carbs. As we all should know, protein builds muscle and is involved in literally thousands of daily functions in the body. The protein necessary to perform these functions must come from your diet. If it doesn't, guess where the body gets the protein it needs from? If you said your muscles, you would be right. So given these points, I believe it's difficult to eat too much protein. Have you ever noticed that, when you break down your macro nutrients into calorie/gram ratios, you find that the total doesn't quite match your chosen daily calorie intake? If this is the case, I suggest you add the difference as protein calories. Some authorities suggest as high as 53% of total calories as protein. Am I advocating this much? While I don't see it as a problem, no I'm not because I also advocate carb cycling which does affect protein intake. On higher carb days -typically training days – you will naturally take in a little less protein and fat. On low carb days, sure, you could easily hit 50% of total calories as protein but timing is critical when it comes to protein, something I often talk about. Back in the old days it was thought the body could only digest 30 grams of protein at a time but if you look at it, this idea doesn't work for the big, beefy guy weighing 250-270 pounds – how many 30 gram meals is this guy going to have to eat? He wouldn't even have time to sleep uninterrupted every night! At 1 gram per pound, that's 8 meals, at 1.5 grams it's 12 meals. In this day and age, most bodybuilders go up to around 50 grams per meal and at least 1.5 grams per pound with the really big guys hitting even more than that.

So, as we talk about intake at these high levels, does this apply to any fitness activity? No because not all activities are designed to build muscle. In those choices that are heavy endurance, more carbs make sense even if you are trying to get lean because of the energy requirements needed to perform that activity. Regarding getting lean, there's a common conception among many people that fat loss ( not weight loss which really means you're becoming a smaller fat person as you will lose total body mass, not just fat) is a complicated process. It doesn't have to be. You simply have to be active enough to burn more calories than you take in and you have to use your head when it comes to your eating plan ( notice I didn't say “diet”) meaning don't fall prey to the mess that is the American Diet. Also don't fall prey to the hype of doing dumb things like starving yourself and jumping on the latest diet craze. If you go on a diet you have to go off the diet at some point and this is where most people make their mistake – what do I eat when I go off? Most of the time, they fall back into old habits and regain the lost weight. Make lifestyle changes you can live with. Eat small meals, high protein, moderate carbs (cycle carbs!) and low healthy fats and don't be afraid to have a cheat meal or two once a week. I remember being a kid in a time when the word “nutrition” was never used. I remember eating tons – tons! of junk but I was so active I was also very lean. Now, this was in a time when I could eat breakfast and leave until lunch and then leave again until dinner. Things like “Amber Alerts” and child abductions didn't exist, so all I did was burn calories. Now as adults we have become quite inactive and that's a big part of the problem along with the crap shoved at us via a million commercials that's laughingly referred to as “food”.

So, getting back to my original point, while it's true that different activities require calorie adjustments the need for protein and eating protein every few hours still applies because regardless of the activity you still need to maintain muscle mass or promote growth to varying degrees depending on the goal. With that said, let's talk a moment about timing. Every 3 hours is the rule, as you've heard me say in many of my articles. Since that does not always fit the schedules of many people, protein powders are pretty much mandatory. I have noticed that even the fitness types that look down their nose at supplements still advocate a few things, such as protein powder. That's because they can be a life saver. I now work a job that keeps me busy enough to make it hard to find time to eat. In prior jobs, I used to make up a shake on the spot and that worked great. That doesn't work here, so I take a pre-made shake with lots of ice to work in a big water bottle and sip it through-out my shift and that does work quite well - point being you can get your protein regardless of your obligations. However, if I didn't use a powder I would be out of luck wouldn't I? It's not that I'm replacing whole food with a supplement – a common anti supplement argument – it's that I'm finding a way to get my protein requirements when I can't get to whole food – a point many anti supplement people don't acknowledge. Now, I'm the first one to advocate whole food first and supplements as just that – a supplement to your eating plan but you have to be willing to adjust as needed to whatever situations come up! This is one more reason people do not eat right – they don't think they have time or options so they run through the drive -thru and grab whatever junk sounds good and off we go! Or worse, they starve all day until lunch and who knows what they eat then and they starve again until dinner but they put down supplements – I see it all the time and that's not how you build muscle or lose fat! Know that you have options and that a good protein powder can be the difference in many cases! So, the bottom line here is that regardless of your goal, you have to find ways to stay dedicated and sticking with the right protein intake relative to your goal is one of the keys to success. Finally, remember the importance of protein no matter what your goal is!

by Jim Brewster
Click here for Jim Brewster's Website

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