So what’s all the fuss with high protein?
Why is everyone (we certainly adhere to this at fitter body boot camp in Northampton) saying that you should have more protein in your diet if you want to lose weight?
Before I attempt to answer this, I think it’s important to point out that I am not ‘science-natured’. I mean I tried to do Biology at A-level and had to drop out after 3 months in because I just didn’t ‘get it’! In fact it bored the hell out of me.
Since then I’ve had to become qualified in anatomy and physiology. I’ve still struggled with it, but I’ve made a point of explaining it to myself in a way that makes sense and doesn’t use too many long, scientific words.
So, here we go, back to protein.
There are three main macronutrients (the big ones) in the foods we consume. They are protein, carbohydrates and fats. There are then also something called micronutrients (the small ones) which are made up of your essential vitamins and minerals.
Taking protein then in isolation, it can be made up of up to twenty amino acids (these are the building blocks). We need them all but not necessarily at the same time.
Our bodies can make 11 of these amino acids naturally, which means that the other 9 need to show up elsewhere in the diet. These ‘9’ are called essential amino acids. They are called ‘essential’ because our bodies cannot make them.
3 of these 9 ‘essential’ amino acids belong to an even more exclusive category called ‘branched-chain amino acids’. One of these called leucine, stands above the rest. Let’s call him King Amino Acid. Foods with the most leucine are recognised as being the best for helping to repair muscle and get more toned:
- Turkey breast
- Fish (especially tuna and cod)
- Beef, chicken, pork, shellfish
Our bodies are breaking down and building up muscle tissue every day – even more so when exercising with weights. The muscle certainly breaks down much faster, and then with the right foods (containing that King Amino Acid Leucine) it can build back up nice and quickly as well.
For women this then = getting more toned (NOT BULKING UP!)
The whole bulking up thing can be saved for another day but essentially women don’t have enough of the growth hormone testosterone to ‘bulk’.
Science bit over. Here are some other great reasons to eat more protein:
- It takes more work to digest which means we burn more calories metabolising and processing them in our bodies.
- They take longer to leave your stomach, which means you feel ‘fuller for longer’, curbing other cravings.
- Combined with exercise, higher protein helps to preserve and build lean tissue. This helps to then target fat loss rather than weight (muscle and fat) loss.
Couple of caveats:
We do not recommend only eating protein. We still recommend a healthy portion of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to complete the macronutrient balance.
For ‘nerdy’ scientific biologists out there that want to pick fault with the exact technical details of the above, it’s not for you. It’s for everyone else that doesn’t understand the silly long words that you use to try and explain stuff.