When it comes to weight loss, kilos start to shed when energy intake is consistently lower than energy expenditure. Protein powder can fit well into a diet plan because it is low in carbohydrates and fats. So, while you may have associated a protein shake primarily with getting bigger, it can be just as important an ally when weight loss is the goal!
There are two main ways protein can affect weight loss:
As we have discussed previously, secretion of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin decreases faster after a high-protein meal. Protein affects appetite therefore reducing subsequent intake of food and lowering overall energy intake.
Increasing Energy Expenditure
We talk more on this below but in brief, protein has a high thermogenic effect which means it requires more energy to break down and distribute nutrients from protein than carbs and fats.
In a six-month study of overweight and obese participants, those on a high-protein diet lost almost double the amount of fat as those on a moderate-protein diet (24). Start your weight loss plan by boosting protein in your macro ratios and you could be surprisingly happy with the results.
What’s The Thermogenic Effect Of Protein?
One potential mechanism for the success of high-protein diets for weight loss is that protein has a high thermogenic effect. The thermogenic effect describes the amount of energy required to digest, absorb and dispose of the protein and ultimately influences energy expenditure.
When compared to the other two macronutrients, protein has the greatest and most sustained thermic effect:
- Protein: 20 ± 30% energy content
- Carbohydrate: 5±15% energy content
- Fat: 0 ± 3% energy content (25)
It is thought that because protein can’t be stored in the body and has to be broken down into amino acids straight away, this may contribute to the higher thermogenic effect.
You can’t leave it up to the protein to do all the work, a high-protein diet in combination with regular training will give the best results.
How Much Protein Should I Take To Lose Weight?
When it comes to considering how much protein you should be taking to lose weight, it’s important to keep in mind that your overall energy intake throughout the day must be lower. Your added protein must therefore be in replacement of an existing energy source or weight may actually increase.
Generally speaking, individuals trying to lose weight should be consuming 1.2-2.0g of protein per kg of body weight. For those who are on the more active end of the spectrum, protein intake should be towards the higher end of that range, aiming for between 1.6-2.0g of protein per kg of body weight daily.
Remember that choosing your protein from healthy sources is going to make the journey to weight loss a lot more successful. Highly processed foods like sausages, salami, and some protein bars can have high fat, sugar and sodium content so should be consumed in moderation.
What Is The Best Protein Powder For Losing Weight?
When weight loss is the goal, the best protein powder to reduce body fat is a clean powder that contains few carbohydrates and contains no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavours.
Whey protein ranks as one of the most superior powders for weight loss. Due to its rapid digestion, whey protein powder is quick to supply amino acids, in particular, leucine. which as discussed earlier plays an essential role in burning fat and growing lean tissue.
Can Protein Powder Help You Build Muscle?
Protein powder is a rapidly digested source of amino acids used to stimulate muscular growth via a process called muscle protein synthesis.
Protein powder is an appetizing, convenient and affordable means to help build muscles. It is the food processor of kitchen equipment, the nail gun to a building site, however like these aids, you can get by without it.
Whey protein is what Jim Stoppani, PHD, an Exercise Physiologist, claims to be as close to it gets to a ‘required supplement’ for anyone wanting to build muscle and a performing edge. Once consumed, it is broken down into amino acids which are absorbed into the bloodstream. Amino acids are then carried to the working tissues where they are used for muscle protein synthesis.
If that’s not enough, whey is also a great source of branched-chain amino acids, namely leucine, isoleucine and valine. Leucine is of particular important as it works as a signal to start and monitor muscle protein synthesis. Choosing protein powders high in branched-chain amino acids is the key to kick starting muscle building, but don’t discount the other nutrients.
Remember that to build muscle requires a lot of calories as well as protein. Consuming healthy carbohydrates and fats to keep your calorie levels high and balanced will help you reach the big nutrition volume needed to pack on muscle mass.
What Is Muscle Protein Synthesis?
We have talked a lot about building, repairing and strengthening muscles, but how does the muscle building process actually transpire? The answer is through a process called muscle protein synthesis – the way in which your body uses amino acids to build new muscle.
While you’re going about your daily life, your body is working away in the background turning over protein. This energy-building process is referred to as catabolism or breakdown. This explains why even the non-active require protein each day, to replace protein being broken down. When you train, the muscles break down at a faster rate due to the extra stress. Luckily, our bodies react to this as soon as the exercise is over by switching to a state of anabolism or protein synthesis.
Protein synthesis works to repair the damaged muscles following stress as well as build and strengthen existing muscles. Having a shake or meal high in protein and carbohydrates before and/or after your workout will help protein anabolism work more effectively. This is also when choosing a powder with high quantities of leucine becomes important.
Jacob Wilson, PHD in Skeletal Muscle Physiology, explains that to maximise muscle protein synthesis, you need around 3g of leucine per serving. Consuming a serve of whey protein, with over 10g of leucine per 100g will make sure you’ve got this covered.
Ultimately, muscle protein catabolism and muscle protein anabolism work like opposing forces fighting it out at different rates to determine the size of the muscle. If muscle protein synthesis exceeds breakdown, the muscles will grow. If muscle protein breakdown exceeds synthesis, muscle will be lost.
How Much Protein Should I Take To Build Lean Muscle?
When we are talking about how much protein you should be taking, we need to consider total intake throughout the day as well as the amount you should have in any one serve.
It is recommended that anyone wanting to build muscle should be consuming between 1.8- 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight daily.
How Much Protein Should You Take At Any One Time?
It has been a long-standing belief that muscle protein synthesis is optimised at protein intakes of 20g post-exercise. New research however, suggested otherwise. It was shown that protein intakes of up to 40g post- exercise could increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis by an additional 10% than intakes of 20g (23).
Once optimal muscle protein synthesis has been reached, the cells can no longer use the amino acids to build new proteins. The amino acids are moved off into other pathways to be utilised in different ways. Monitoring and comparing your current intakes with your recommended intake will give you a good indication as to whether additional protein powder can assist you to build muscle.
Will Too Much Protein Make Me Bulky?
Do you want it to? Athletes dedicate a large proportion of their lives to bulking up. It takes hours in the gym, a whole lot of self-control, and a clean high-protein diet to build muscle mass. If you want bulk, you’ve got to dedicate yourself to months, if not years of effort to get there.
If you were to sit on the couch and drink protein shakes and eat protein bars all day, the only bulking you would do would be putting on weight from fat, not muscle –the same would occur if you sat on the couch and ate 20 steaks and 15 yoghurt pottles. As part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, protein will simply help you achieve toned, strong muscles that allow you to feel fit, active, healthy and nourished.
The amount of bulk that you get you will come down to the amount and type of training you do combined with in most cases the amount of carbohydrates you consume.
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