PROTEIN POWER & IT’S THERMIC BENEFITS
The Most Important Ingredient For Fat Loss and Strength
By Dr. Natasha Turner ND
A generation ago no one worried about the strength or fitness of retirees. Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss and the catastrophic health problems associated with it wasn’t coined until 1988.
Today we know that muscle and strength are among the greatest assets we possess. It’s never too early to start building your portfolio, nor is it ever too late to add to it. After age 30, an untrained body tends to lose about one percent of its muscle mass each year. Strength declines even faster. Diminished muscle and degraded strength lead to less movement and lower fitness, which in tum lead to such chronic conditions as heart disease and diabetes. But while aging is inevitable, the worst aspects of it are not.
In the big picture of lifelong health: Muscle, and the ability to use it to generate movement, is a matter of life and death.
The link between strength and longevity is less intuitive, because we tend to see cardio fitness and muscular fitness as two separate and unequal systems. Everyone thinks of cardiorespiratory fitness as heart and lungs; But it’s the heart and lungs and brain talking to muscle and moving you around. If you’re fairly fit and fairly strong, you’re probably moving around a lot. And if you’re stronger, you’re probably making an effort to do things that preserve your strength.
That last point is crucial. When research first showed that stronger people live longer and with less disability, the reason wasn’t immediately clear. Did strength make some people healthier? Or did illness make other people weaker?
What’s clear is that losing muscle at any age is a metabolic disaster. In one recent study, the researchers had older people reduce the number of steps they took each day by 76 percent. In just two weeks, they lost almost 4 percent of their leg muscle while gaining fat. Even worse, they saw a rise in insulin resistance- a precursor of diabetes- and a decline in muscle-protein synthesis after eating. This means less muscle is being formed and preserved. When this happens. You begin to store fat in places where it should never be stored. You store it in your heart, your muscle, and your liver.
There are, however, two ways to avoid that fate. The first is what we’ve been talking about: you must lift weights. If you want to start working out in a fun, interactive small group – with the close attention of a trainer for a super reasonable price, book online here with Madison. Classes start February 20th and are on Thursdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 1:30pm. The second is a little more appetizing: power up your protein intake!
My clinic, Clear Medicine, fat loss and ketosis program that ensures you gain muscle just from the proper protein intake and you only lose fat. We get patients safely into ketosis and an anti-inflammatory manner by focusing on lean protein that’s calculated by body weight and whether you need to maintain or gain muscle and high vegetable intake as rich sources of fibre rather than a high fat. The high fibre lowers insulin, aids detox of estrogen, lowers cholesterol and blood sugars and causes the release of hormone adiponectin that your body releases during exercise and burns fat. That means each pound you see drop on the scale equates to a loss of one block of butter off your body. I have seen a two-pound gain in muscle in a month in one of my patients that is 77 and can’t exercise. I have also lost 26lbs since summer of 2017 and I am stronger than I have ever been all due to high protein.
Protein: Which Sources Are Best and How Much Should You Have?
Although great carb choices are low in sugar, your best protein bets are those that are low in fat. Protein sources high in saturated fats, such as red meats and full-fat dairy products, increase inflammation in your body. And remember, more inflammation only serves to accelerate weight gain, hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance. You may also notice, as many of my patients do, that reducing or avoiding these inflammatory foods can alleviate joint pain and stiffness within only a few weeks.
Each gram of protein, carb or fat gives you a caloric load that your body can use for whatever it needs. Eat the exact right amount of food for your size and activity level and you achieve a nirvana-like state known as energy balance. Eat more than you need, though, and the result is less blissful.
Your body is happy to sock away excess fat or carbs Fat turning into fat is easy. We just store it if we are not using it as fuel. Our body is also good at converting excess carbs into fat, once the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles are fully stocked.
Protein is different. Of the 20 amino acids that for protein molecules, only a few can be converted to fat, which means your body has a harder time pulling that off. That’s on top of two other well-known benefits: a high thermic effect (about a quarter of protein calories are burned during digestion) and increased satiety, so the more protein you eat, the less hungry you are for everything else. The opposite happens when you eat less protein: Your hunger increases and you can end up eating more total calories.
That last phenomenon is called protein leverage. The idea is that our bodies crave an optimal amount of protein, and once we’ve consumed it, our appetite shuts down. It usually takes a protein intake of 25 to 35 percent of total calories for the mechanism to kick in. That’s relatively high when you consider that a typical diet is about 15 percent protein.
When you consume more protein, you displace something else in your diet. You also need to eat protein more often. In a recent study, two different meal patterns on a group of seniors were tested. Those who ate four protein-rich meals throughout the day had better protein synthesis than those who ate most of their protein at dinner.
I believe breaking up protein intake – eating 30 to 40 grams in each of three or four meals- is a crucial weapon against anabolic resistance. It works best when combined with strength training. A protein shake for breakfast and as well as a late-night snack has been found in studies that muscles were still more receptive to protein 48 hours after lifting.
Animal foods are the most conducive to muscle growth. All animal proteins, including meat, dairy, and eggs, are complete: They contain all nine essential amino acids, the ones your body can’t synthesize. (If you’re a vegetarian, focus on complete plant proteins, such as quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth, as well as a variety of other sources, such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. But watch out most of these are high in fat or starch as well and do not provide enough protein. Tempeh is one of the best protein sources for vegetarians and I find pea, rice, hemp or pumpkin protein powder are musts.)
Another benefit of muscle is an amino acid reserve. We literally harbor excess amino acids in our muscles, which means we can use them on a daily basis for a long list of tasks, from repairing tissues to producing hormones and enzymes. This becomes critical to maintaining whole-body and muscle health in the event of disease and also as you age. I always tell patients your reserves are in your muscles – if you have to go for surgery – it is here your body will tap into to heal. This is also why muscle mass decreases after surgery if you do not consume the right amount of protein and amino acids, like glutamine.
Still, the biggest benefits you’ll gain from muscle tissue come when you actually use it. That’s when you generate hormones that not only make you stronger but also help you become smarter.
How much protein do we need?
Understand this: a 5 pound weight gain in midlife might actually represent a 10-pound fat increase combined with a 5-pound muscle loss. That’s almost guaranteed to worsen your health.
We can minimize the damage with a diet that’s higher in protein. And the best strategy by far is to put your muscles to work in combination with this protein rich diet. When you exercise, you not only store less energy but also pull some of the energy you already have out of fat cells and into circulation. Plus, with strength training you break down muscle tissue with the goal of replacing it with dietary protein. Even if you don’t lose any weight, you’re at least moving it around. Don’t get obsessed with the scale, the best is to measure the width of your waist at your belly button. This number should be half your height in inches to prevent diabetes and metabolic disease.
Protein requirements vary depending on gender, lean muscle mass and activity levels. As a very simple guideline, consume a serving of protein about the size and thickness of your palm 3 times a day at mealtimes and about half that size twice a day for snacks. If reading a label, women should aim for 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal four times per day. Men should consume about 40 to 45 grams of protein per meal four times per day. (An alternate way of calculating your protein intake is to consume approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of your ideal body weight. For instance, my ideal body weight is 100 pounds, so I should consume 100 grams of protein per day).
The secret to strength and muscle mass is all about boosting your fat loss, strength and energy. According to a 2011 study published in the Viennese Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, nutrition plays a hugely important role in the prevention of sarcopenia (loss of muscle and increased fragility with age). Adequate amounts of high-quality protein are integral for the optimal stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. But the study also found that vitamin D, antioxidants (vitamins C and E) and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may also contribute to the preservation of muscle function.
Here are a few of my recent favorite finds in the grocery store for protein. Check the product labels for shopping with this post on my Instagram page.
For a full list of the best protein sources please see attached chart.