Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
There are a lot of myths floating around the internet about protein. Some are technical - relating to protein absorption. Some are emotional - that protein makes you big and bulky like a bodybuilder. All of these are wrong and lead to fear around eating enough protein at mealtimes.
What Is Protein?
Protein is one of the macronutrients found in food (the others are fats and carbohydrates). Protein is an essential macronutrient and is found mostly in animals and animal products (meat, fish, eggs). Chemically, the composition of proteins is made up of amino acids. That's the very building block of protein itself, and protein is the building block of human tissue, including muscles and organs in our body.
What Foods Provide You with Protein?
Some meat sources of protein include chicken breast, steaks and minced beef, pork chops and ham, lamb, and turkey. These are the complete sources of protein. Fish sources could include tuna, salmon, cod and mackerel.
For people that don't eat animals, high protein dairy options include Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, eggs and milk. Vegan-friendly options include nuts, lentils and legumes, edamame, and quinoa.
But please note that many of the dairy and vegan-friendly options include a high amount of fats, and that makes them more calorific for a smaller amount of protein. They also tend to be incomplete or complementary proteins because they're missing at least one essential amino acid. So, if you choose to exclude meat, poultry and fish from your diet, ensure you research plant-based protein extensively or ask for expert help, so you don't miss out on essential nutrients for your body.
Ideally, whole food sources will be your primary source of protein, but if necessary protein supplements are a convenient way to "top up" on a day when you might be falling a little bit short on whole protein. The most common being whey protein (a milk-based by-product of the cheese-making process so not vegan) at around 20g per scoop.
Why Is Protein Important For Fat Loss?
Our body uses protein to build and retain muscle tissue. That becomes especially important when dieting because when you lose weight, you don't only lose body fat, but water and also some muscle. How much muscle you lose will depend on the macronutrient ratio in your meals. So, aiming for a higher protein intake while in a calorie deficit can support your body in retaining more muscle mass.
Protein gives a lot of dietary "bang for your buck" at only 4kcals per gram of protein so that you can eat more of it for fewer calories. It also has a high satiety effect, meaning it keeps you feeling full for longer and reduces snacking. If the goal is fat loss, this is a useful trait of protein because it helps to reduce your overall caloric intake.
If the goal is to lose weight, and tone up, protein intake is the second most important thing for fat loss after consistently maintaining a calorie deficit.
Recommendations For Protein Intake
The Institute of Medicine recommends that around 10-35% of the daily calorie intake comes from lean protein sources. How many grams that amounts will vary depending on the overall calorie needs of the person. Still, it's a good idea to aim for around 1.4 to 2.2g per kilo of bodyweight. More active people, and those who are consistently weight training, will be on the higher end of that based on the increased need for muscle repair.
That might seem like a lot, but most women are dramatically under consuming protein in their diets. Don't fret. It won't turn you into a buff bodybuilder if you're lifting weights and eating a lot of protein. You'll be able to get that lean, toned figure more easily.
It can be useful to track protein intake, especially for beginners. It's important to remember that 100g of meat isn't the same as 100g protein. An average-sized chicken breast (around 172g) contains 54g protein. One cooked egg contains around 6g protein.
While it's probably not necessary to track all three macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) in your diet, it can be useful to track protein (along with calories) to make sure you don't fall short of it.
Many of my clients find that when they eat the proper amount of protein, their hunger levels significantly decrease. They also find it easy to stick to their calorie targets for the day - sometimes even struggling to hit them. So by prioritising protein, it can feel much more comfortable to stick to your food plan.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet, and it can be strategically useful in achieving a lean and toned physique in people who are aiming to lose body fat. It helps fat loss by making you feel fuller for longer, reducing the amount you snack between meals.
Getting enough protein is essential for a healthy body. If you'd like to get some clarification on how you can include more protein in your diet or just speak to an expert no strings attached, feel free to reach out!