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3 Rules for Harnessing the Power of Protein

Sep 12, 2008
Just "Eat more protein" seems to be a very common answer to a wide variety of nutritional questions. Protein is a killer nutrient as it can function as the building blocks of muscle, a source of energy (via its eventual conversion to glucose or ATP), it gives the body the "hardest" time converting it to stored fat (compared to carbohydrates or fat), and it takes the most energy to breakdown and digest (yes you burn more calories eating protein than other nutrients).

With all the press that protein receives in the fitness world it is amazing how often people make basic mistakes in their nutritional plan in regards to protein consumption. Here are the three simple rules that I always make sure to discuss with all my clients.

Rule 1. Consume Sufficient Quantity of Protein: As I said before eating enough protein is very important. I recommend that people should consume at least 30% of their total calories from protein.

To figure this out you multiple you total caloric intake by 30% (or 0.3). This gives you the number of calories consumed from protein. Next divide that number by 4. You divide it by 4 because there are 4 calories in each gram of protein. There will be times when you may need to consume more than 30% of your calories from protein but this is a good place to start.

COMMON ERROR: When people go on low carbohydrate diets they have a tendency to greatly increase their protein intake. They can actually increase their protein intake too much! When on a low/very low carbohydrate diet it is important that you body becomes accustomed to using fat as a fuel instead of glucose (sugar). But if your protein intake is too high then excess protein will get turned into glucose (by the liver) and your body will not fully adapt to using fat as a fuel. If you are trying to get into ketosis but are having trouble or if you aren't losing bodyfat on a very low carbohydrate diet you may want to decrease your protein intake and increase your fat intake.

Rule 2. Pay Attention to Protein Timing: The benefits of eating 5-6 meals throughout the day is an important concept that has been written about time and time again so I won't rehash all the reasons why it is important. But I will show you how to take this concept one step further by adding a layer of nutrient timing.

During certain times of the day your body needs more protein than at other times. When are these times? The three most important times for protein consumption are
*First thing in the morning
*During and After your workout
*Before Bed

Instead of spacing your protein consumption out evenly throughout the day make sure you pay close attention to consuming extra protein at these times. In the morning you need a protein boost as your body hasn't had any amino acids in 5-9 hours. Extra protein around your workout is important to boost protein synthesis and halt muscle breakdown. Finally before you go to bed at night consuming slower digesting proteins will allow for your blood amino acid levels to be elevated for several hours while you sleep (this is important for increased protein synthesis). During the rest of the day continued protein consumption is still important to keep blood amino acid levels elevated so don't neglect your amino acid fix every 2-3 hours.

COMMON ERROR - Warning: Advanced Tip.
I am not a fan of waking up in the middle of the night to eat. Proper, restful, uninterrupted sleep is an extremely important and often an over looked factor building muscle and staying healthy. Waking up in the middle of the night to eat may cause a boost in protein synthesis but it also interrupts your sleep cycle. Instead I recommend people keep BCAA tabs next to their bed with a glass of water in case they do wake up during the night. If you do wake up then before you go back to bed pop a couple grams of BCAA and head back to sleep. With this approach your will maximize your recovery from sleep and boost protein synthesis and muscle growth on nights that you happen to wake up.

Rule 3. Eat a Variety of Protein - If you are going to eat a lot of protein then variety is very important. Getting all your protein from chicken breasts and chocolate whey protein might be fine for a couple weeks but if you are trying to make lifelong changes. Many people get stuck eating the same foods to meet their protein needs: chicken breasts, canned tuna, egg whites, and whey protein - because "that's what bodybuilders eat."

Here are some more great protein choices that will keep you tastes buds happy and your muscles growing:

The Classics
oChicken Breasts
oCanned Tuna
oEgg Whites
oWhey Protein

Fish
oTilapia
oHalibut
oTrout
oTuna Steaks
oHaddock
oSalmon
oScallops
oShrimp

White Meats
oPork Chops
oPork Loin
oExtra Lean Ground Turkey
oTurkey Breast
oExtra Lean Turkey Ham
oLean Chicken/Turkey Sausages

Red Meats
oFlank Steak
oTop Round (Beef)
oBuffalo
oExtra Lean Ground Beef

Powders
oHydrolyzed Whey (great for during your workout)
oCasein
oWhey/Casein Blends

As you can see your protein options are almost endless (I didn't even get in to all the flavors of protein powder that are now available).

Follow these three simple rules and you will be well on your way to maximizing the benefits from protein consumption.
About the Author
Warp Speed Fat Loss is a complete 28 day diet and training system crafted to help you lose 10,15, or 20lbs of body fat in just 28 day. To start losing weight fast visit Warp Speed Fat Loss

Mike Roussell is a nutrition doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. His Warp Speed Fat Loss system is a complete Done-for-You A-Z Fat Loss Blueprint. You can learn more at http://www.warpspeedfatloss.com
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