It’s a rare day that a woman comes in the gym and says she wants to be a bodybuilder. Most women are out for one thing. They want to lose weight and tone up—not bulk up. So when women join our boot camp program at our gym, they are surprised to hear our speech on the importance of protein.
Protein powder isn’t just for bodybuilders anymore, even though that is what most women think. And since most of them have no desire to grow manly muscles, they walk right past the protein aisle on their way to the fat loss section at their favorite vitamin store—if they only knew what they were missing!
Supplementing your diet with protein powder has more benefits than just building muscle. Boosting your protein can help you get that bikini body you’ve been dreaming about. Here’s why.
1) Protein prevents muscle deterioration during fat loss.
If you want to lighten up, chances are you want to tighten up too. In other words, you don’t just want to be skinny. You want to be fit and trim. A program that boosts fat loss typically involves burning more calories and eating fewer calories. Unfortunately, a low-calorie diet and high-calorie-burning workout routine can result in more than just fat loss if you aren’t careful. It can result in muscle loss too.
Supplementing your diet with protein drinks can help preserve muscle while you lose body fat. As you boost protein and reduce overall calories, you are more likely to hold on to the muscle you have (and even gain some) while melting away the unwanted fat.
Another reason you want to preserve muscle mass is because muscle burns more calories than fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day.
2) Protein suppresses your appetite.
Many of our clients learned firsthand that the days they were the hungriest were the days their protein intake was the lowest. This isn’t just one person’s opinion or personal experience. Research proves a high-protein diet is more filling.
Two different studies from Purdue demonstrate protein’s effectiveness when it comes to appetite. One study group of female participants who took in 30 percent of their calories from lean protein felt more satisfied than another group who ate less protein.
In the other study, researchers found that people’s appetite improved when they increased protein intake by 20–30 grams of protein or 3–4 ounces of lean protein a day. On the flipside, the study showed that diets with inadequate amounts of protein increased the participants’ desire to eat.
In a nutshell, a high-protein diet means a more satisfying diet. A satisfied dieter is a happy dieter.
3) Protein supplements are a convenient way to get good nutrition.
Let’s face it. There is no shortage of convenient carbohydrates and fats. You can go to any convenience store and 90 percent of the items on the shelves will be packed full of fats and carbs. There are just not a lot of high-protein options that are fast and easy.
Trying to get protein from whole foods requires a certain level of food prep. Not everyone has time to stop at a rest area on a road trip and fire up a grill. Although it is important to get the majority of your nutrients from whole food, protein shakes are an easy and effective way to boost protein on the go.
In just a few seconds flat, you can combine your favorite liquid and protein powder in a shaker and get 30 grams of powerful protein without even turning on one stove. There are even ready to drink (RTD) shakes that make it even easier. Give me a woman who wouldn’t appreciate having to cook one less meal or make one less snack.
4) A high-protein diet is lower in calories.
You may be thinking “Bonnie, carbohydrates and protein have the same amount of calories per gram.” Yes. You are correct, they each have 4 calories a gram. But when is the last time you had a mound of shredded chicken the size of a bowl of pasta?
We can consume a lot more calories from carbohydrates than we can consume in protein. Lean protein is so dense and heavy, it is difficult to eat that much of it. But I’m sure you can eat the heck out of some linguini.
Carbohydrates aren’t the only thing that racks up the calories. Fat has more than twice the calories per gram as protein or carbs. Packing 9 calories a gram, you could trade one gram of fat for 2 grams of protein and still get out with fewer calories.
5) Increasing protein can help you sculpt pretty toned muscle.
You may not want to look like a bodybuilder, but you probably don’t want mushy arms and jiggling thighs either. Firming up often requires increasing muscle mass with strength training and increasing protein intake.
Since fat is soft and lumpy and muscles are smooth and firm, increasing muscle improves your appearance. When you increase lean mass, your body gets tight and toned. Your new muscle will fill out loose skin, giving it added support and shape and even smoothing out the appearance of cellulite—not to mention what it does for your self-esteem.
As you get stronger, you will begin to feel more confident and capable of things you might not have even attempted before. This inner strength will help drive you to discover even more physical strength. You will continue to watch your body change and improve even beyond your initial weight loss.
You don’t have to have three shakes a day to benefit from taking protein supplements. One 20–30 gram shake is typically a great place for most people to start. Just remember to reduce overall calories if you want to reduce body fat (so you can see that beautiful muscle you are sculpting), and don’t be afraid to hit the weights. Your body will thank you—and then you will thank me!
How much protein should we eat?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that for general health the average individual should consume 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So a person who weighs 165 pounds should consume 60 grams of protein per day. (Note: This is for general health. If you want to look and feel fit, you want to take your body beyond general health.)
To increase muscle mass, a person who lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event should eat a range of 0.5–0.8 grams per pound of body weight. So, a 165-pound person who wants to increase muscle mass would increase protein intake to 75 grams to 128 grams a day.