Many women think eating too much protein will result in big, bulky muscle. Wrong – even if all we did was eat protein, we’re missing the one very thing that would take us from She-Ra to He-Man – testosterone. This muscle building hormone is the key to adding an abundance of muscle. Instead of gaining massive amounts of muscle, eating more protein can help gain feminine curves. Confused and misinformed on this magical macro, read on and learn why its important to keep this nutrient high and plentiful when it comes to getting a lean body.
So What is Protein Anyway?
Protein is the main building blocks of living tissue. Virtually every part of the human body is composed of protein – most importantly our muscles. It is made up of chains of amino acids – the building blocks. Our bodies make 12 of these amino acids, but the remaining 8 must come from the foods we eat. A complete protein contains all 8 of these essential amino acids.
Only the complete ones such as poultry, lean red meat, eggs, fish and whey can support lean tissue development including building muscle and repairing muscle after a workout. Adequate protein in the diet elevates your metabolic rate, helps maximize fat burning and bolsters immune function. Top that sufficient intake is essential for maintaining clear skin, strong nails and lustrous hair – what woman doesn’t want that?
Real Truth Bomb #1 – Helps You Burn More Calories
Eating more protein helps you burn more calories. Protein has a thermic effect in the body, which means the body expends calories digesting it when you eat. In fact, protein has a greater thermic effect than eating other foods of the same caloric value like carbohydrates.
In fact, one study completed on ten normal healthy weight women, showed the energy expenditure of three isocaloric meals resulted in a greater amount of calories burned versus other macros including a high protein meal, a high carbohydrate meal and a high fat meal. The energy expenditure of the high protein meal was 261 +/- 59, compared to lower values of 92 +/- 67 and 97 +/- 71 kilojoules, less than half the amount burned by the high protein meals.
Real Truth Bomb #2 – Doesn’t Make You Big and Bulky
Yep! This is a prime example of one of the many myths out there. Yes we need adequate protein to firm up and tone up, but its not just protein that helps us build muscle. The average women typically has only a small faction of the circulating testosterone produced by the average man, it is extremely unlikely that you will ever have to worry about suddenly developing bulky muscles without this hormone in abundance.
Our hormones are a bit more complex than a man’s we also have a high level of circulating female hormones – estrogen and progesterone. These hormones prevent us from over developing muscle, and even prevent us from ever getting too lean. Naturally women are not meant to hold plenty of muscle, or be too lean either.
Real Truth Bomb #3 – Reduces Appetite and Keeps Hunger in Control
Eating a high protein diet can help reduce hunger and appetite especially between meals. In a recent study, twenty healthy women were provided the following snacks – high protein yogurt, high fat crackers or high fat chocolate snack to compare the effects on appetite, satiety and subsequent food intakes.
Eating the yogurt snack led to greater reductions in afternoon hunger versus the chocolate and also delayed eating by approximately 30 min compared to the chocolate snack and approximately 20 min versus the high fat crackers. Even better, eating the yogurt snack led to eating 100 fewer calories at subsequent meals versus the other snacks. No other differences were detected.
These results suggest that, when compared to high fat snacks, eating less energy dense, high protein snacks like yogurt improves appetite control and satiety and reduces subsequent food intake in healthy women. Try eating two smaller protein snacks between larger protein meals. Between lunch and dinner, have a protein snack like Greek yogurt, a shake or low fat cottage cheese.
Real Truth Bomb #4 – Maintains Muscle and Burns Fat
A recent study showed that eating a high protein diet while on an energy deficit (a calorie-reduced diet) helped maintain fat free mass. In one randomized controlled trial, subjects were assigned to one of the following high protein diets – protein at 0.8 g/kg/d, 1.6 g/kg/d or 2.4 g/kg/d for 31 days. A 10-day weight maintenance period was followed by a 21-day reduced calorie diet of 40%. Subjects lost on average 3.2 kg of body weight during the energy deficit diet regardless of the amount of protein. However, the proportion of weight loss due to reductions in fat-free mass was lower and the loss of fat mass higher in those receiving 1.6 and 2.4 g/kg/d of protein. Additionally, those following the higher protein meals had a greater anabolic muscle response than those consuming the smallest amount of protein per day.
How Much and When Should I Take it?
When it comes to your protein needs – it should be related to your goal, but shouldn’t vary too much either! Try to maintain about 40% of your daily calorie needs as this macro. However, this may increase or decrease depending on your goals, and if you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle or just maintain.
Eating protein regularly throughout the day will ensure you are providing your muscles with an adequate supply of aminos for muscle maintenance, growth and repair come post workout. It will also help keep your metabolism working and maintaining your lean muscle. But more importantly the type of protein you eat at the right time is critical to maximizing your goals. Here is an outline for when and which type:
Morning: In a hurry, choose a whey protein isolate, which will get you out of your fasted state and help kick start your metabolism for the day. Have as a smoothie, mix with fruit and berries, or blend with your morning oats. Eat within 30 minutes of rising. Not a protein powder fan, have egg whites, whole eggs or Greek yogurt.
Daytime: Any lean protein will do, include choices such as fish, chicken, eggs and dairy. Occasionally throw in lean red meat, to help bump up your natural creatine levels and iron. Lean meat is also a good source of saturated fat – which is a needed part of the diet too. These natural sources should make up the majority of your protein needs throughout the day.
Pre-Workout: This is a good time to use a whey isolate or blend of whey isolate and concentrate, which has a slower digestion rate than isolate, this will help provide you with energy to last through your workout and keep your muscles fueled without having to turn to your own muscles as fuel. Consume approximately 30 minutes prior to your workout.
Post-Workout: The best choice post-workout is whey hydrolysate or whey isolate, which is rich in BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids. BCAAs include Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine, and have a direct effect on stimulating the muscle building process, which is key to recovery. Be sure to consume within the first hour post-workout. Other good choices – choose chicken, fatty fish like salmon or tuna, which are high in omega-3’s that can help with recovery and reducing the inflammatory process.
Evening: The best powder to consume in the evening is a caseinate protein, this ultra slow digesting protein takes about 7 hours to digest, which means it can help ensure the recovery process when you sleep! Combine 1 scoop of caseinate protein with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or your favorite nut butter, for a great source of protein and essential fats! Caseinate can also be found in cottage cheese. Slower digesting proteins also include whole eggs, dairy protein and lean red meat.
Until next time…
Be Fierce and Rule the World,