THE (ANIMAL) PROTEIN OBSESSION
Proteins are the literal building blocks of your body. They are necessary for the building and maintenance of your bodies tissue and cells, and also help build the new muscle you’ve stimulated in your workouts. Protein has gotten a lot of attention lately due to the low/no carb diet craze.
But, most people are overly obsessed with getting enough protein, especially from animal sources, and I can tell you that research suggests this is not only unnecessary for fat loss but can actually increase your risk of heart disease (due to increased cholesterol levels), various cancers including breast (due to increased reproductive hormones), kidney stones, and gout and bone problems.
Biochemical research done over the years has shown that 0.5 gram of protein per pound of body weight provides more than enough protein for growth and maintenance for most people. That’s about 75 grams per day for a 150 pound person. But most people consume much more than this (often double and triple the amount), and most of it from animal sources…especially those caught up in the fad and crash diet programs.
Because we’re engaging in high intensity resistance training, we could do well to bump that number up a bit to 0.5-0.6 grams per pound of body weight, but I’ve not found much benefit to increasing it to the ridiculous amounts recommended in popular diet programs.
THE PLANTS VS. THE ANIMALS
But don’t get too caught up in how many grams per pound…choosing how much and what type of protein to eat really should begin with the source: animal or plants.
If the protein is from animal sources, we then must look at the fat content.
Generally we want to choose lean meats. Not because all fats are bad (they are just as important in keeping your fat burning hormones flowing), but because typical grain fed animal meats are produced with higher amounts of unhealthy fats. Your best bet in choosing your animal protein sources will come from grass fed or free range chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and egg whites, and occasionally lean beef. On the other hand, animal proteins have virtually no fiber and other essential nutrients, and while protein does help to provide satiety, to get all of your protein from animal sources only is not only unhealthy as described earlier, but a mistake for fat loss in my experience. Remember, you want to focus on those micro-nutrients first, so you’ll want to get a load (half or more) of your daily protein from plant sources like beans, legumes, and nuts.
This doesn’t mean you must become a vegetarian, but simply focusing more on natural plant foods as opposed to solely animal proteins. Remember, all protein comes from plants anyway, the grass fed animals just eat it, or eat another animal that did, and we end up eating them.
Also, it has been claimed by many that you can’t build muscle or lose fat effectively on a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is hogwash. There are plenty of people who have done this and it is a little known fact that even when eating incomplete proteins only (plant sources), your body will manufacture the rest of the amino acids to fill out the complete protein profile.
THERMOGENESIS WITH PLANT PROTEINS
Yet another reason to focus on plant proteins versus animal proteins in regards to fat loss was discovered in the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted:
The China Study. The study measured 367 diet, lifestyle, and disease related variables by studying 6500 adults in 65 different counties around China.
What is most startling about the results of this study to me is that the least active people in this study consumed 30% more calories per pound of body weight than people in the United States, yet had a 20% lower body mass index than the average American.
How is this possible?
Studies show that diets lower in animal proteins tend to encourage slower and more controlled weight gain. A big reason for this is that an overage of calories (above your RMR) is likely to be burned off as body heat (thermogenesis) rather than deposited as body fat as with animal proteins. Amazing…and just another reason why we need to focus more on plant proteins for fat loss.
All that being said, on occassion I like eatting sushi or a nicely cooked portion of salmon as much as most of us…but that doesn’t mean I have to eat these several times a day. But with my new found knowledge of protein intake, I am learning to cut out the animal protein all together. Try using animal proteins just once or twice per day, with the rest of your daily protein coming from the plant sources mentioned above.