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There’s More To Protein Than Just Building Muscle

Protein is every bodybuilder’s best friend. Bodybuilders and pro-fitness people alike are always looking for their next source of protein to help them keep or grow their muscle mass. But did you know that protein can also help burn all that unwanted fat? That’s right, protein doesn’t just help you make those gains, it can also help you get rid of some of that extra baggage you’ve been carrying around.

There are many studies that show high protein diets can cause a significant increase in fat loss compared to normal and low protein diets. These studies confirm that the more protein an individual consumes, the more muscle and less fat that individual will have.[1]

How is this possible? Well, there are a number of possibilities. First, we need to learn about DIT.

DIT stands for “Diet-Induced Thermogenesis,” and is defined as “the increase in energy expenditure above basal fasting level divided by the energy content of the food ingested.” In simpler terms, DIT  is determined by the food you eat and if it increases your metabolic rate. Different amounts of protein, fats, and carbs all have certain impacts on how much it can increase your metabolic rate. What’s interesting to look at is the typical percentage of thermogenic effects each macronutrient has; lipids are typically 0-3%, carbs 5-10%, and protein a whopping 20-30%. Higher thermogenesis = faster fat loss, and with these numbers, it’s clear that protein can certainly help you in this process.[2]

The second possibility is the fact that protein is relatively harder than other macronutrients to produce energy. Basically, it takes more energy to extract energy from protein as compared to macros like carbs and lipids. The reason for this is that amino acids may turn into glucose first before they can be oxidized for energy. This process is known as “gluconeogenesis,” which takes place in the liver and requires energy in order to create energy. Since the process is burning energy in the process of creating energy, it makes the energy less efficient. In addition to that, it’s been shown that high-protein diets leave the consumer much more satisfied as well, as compared to those who follow diets that encourage restrictive calorie consumption.[3]

The last possibility is that high-protein diets increase serum BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino-Acids) levels. BCAAs are made up of the amino acids Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. BCAAs are very special in the amino acids family for a variety of reasons. In contrast to other amino acids, BCAAs are unique in that they have the ability to spark muscle protein synthesis — which helps your muscles get bigger as we already know. However, this process takes up a lot of energy, and can also burn calories along the way as well. Individuals who have higher levels of BCAAs tend to be leaner and more insulin sensitive, which allows them to eat more without having to worry about gaining as much fat as the average person.[4]

So yes, as much as we all love protein and it’s ability to help us make some muscle gains, if your goal is to drop a few pounds of fat, you may want to consider keeping those protein levels high in your diet plans. Make an attempt to spread your protein consumption throughout the day and remember that proper resistance and cardio trainings can only help you achieve your goals!

Sources:

  1. Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R. D., Wolfe, R. R., Atrup, A., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). “Protein, weight management, and satiety.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. vol. 87 no. 5 1558S-1561S.
  2. Westerterp, K. R. (2004). “Diet Induced Thermogenesis.” Nutrition & Metabolism. DOI: 10.1186/1743-7075-1-5.
  3. Johnston, A. M., Horga, G. W., Murison, S. D., Bremner, D. M., Lobley G. E. (2008). “Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. vol. 87 no. 1 44-55.
  4. Lu, J., Xie, G., Jia, W., Jia, W. (2013). “Insulin resistance and the metabolism of branched-chain amino acids.” Frontiers of Medicine. doi: 10.1007/s11684-013-0255-5
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