Who is the Protein Gym Wanderer?
I have been going to the gym three times a week for two years and I will nearly always see someone wandering around the gym drinking a protein shake.
My automatic response to these people would be to scoff in a pocket watch kinda way. Surely there isn’t an overwhelming need that would warrant the required organization to bring protein to the gym and everywhere else.
I stopped scoffing and dropped my pocket watch when I finally learned the real benefits of a high protein intake that warranted constant protein luggage. There’s an abundance of studies that indicate protein helps you lose body fat.
The Weight Loss Wall.
Even though I have worked out for nearly two years, I have hit a wall. I don’t seem to be losing any more body fat and I still seem to want 14 ice creams and 10 packets of Oreos each day. This isn’t normal. This problem has motivated me to look at what I was doing and I’ve started to question everything – surely there’s a better way to lose weight and have an easier life doing so.
I started looking at nutrition and in particular protein intake. I wanted to know whether you actually needed to eat a bucket load each day to lose body fat.
But What the Hell is Protein Anyway?
Protein is a building block that consists of chains of potentially 20 different amino acids (1). These amino chains can vary in length depending on the type. For humans to function, we require nine to be consumed as part of our diet as our bodies cannot produce them naturally (2). These are called essential amino acids.
So What Are the Benefits of Protein When it Comes to Weight Loss?
Does Protein Help with Hunger?
You are less hungry, for longer, after consuming meals that are protein-dense (3).
- Ghrelin is one hormone responsible for hunger and it is secreted less after protein ingestion (4,5)
- Satiety hormones (GIP, GLP-1) have also been shown to reduce satiety as their secretion increases dramatically after protein ingestion (6)
- Cholecystokinin (CCK) is another hormone that slows down gastric emptying and helps individuals remain full for longer (7). It releases into the gut upon protein ingestion.
The type and percentage of protein ingested mitigate at some level the various effects of the above processes (8).
It should be noted that sensory and cognitive elements play a role in determining satiety (9). If people expect a meal to be filling, it would likely be. If a protein drink was thin, it wouldn’t be as filling as one that was thick with the same macronutrient profile (10).
MAKE THAT PROTEIN THICK!
- If you want to drink a protein supplement to stave off hunger, make it as thick as humanly possible – we’re likely to be full for longer (10)! One way is to add a tasteless fiber supplement.
Eating Burns Calories and Protein Burns More.
Our metabolic response to food (eating food and digestion), costs the body energy in the form of calories.
By simply eating, we are burning calories and potentially burning body fat (assuming we are eating under our total daily expenditure needs).
The rate of energy expenditure (or thermal effect) for this metabolic process is determined by the type of food we are eating. Protein has been shown to burn more calories consuming (~15-30%), than carbohydrates (~5-10%) and fats (~0-3%) (11).
So What Does This Actually Mean?
Eating one chicken breast before any other meal is the closest thing to a magical weight loss pill that people have been chasing for decades. It’s helpful mentally if I realize that whenever I eat protein, 30% is burned off simply by consuming it. It also helps me kill off general hunger and it seems to have destroyed sugar cravings.
How Much Protein Do I Need Each Day If I Want to Lose Body Fat?
Researchers Eric Helms and Menno Henselmans have both spent thousands of hours researching protein. These guys are far more studious and intelligent than I am.
- Helms is of the view that if you’re dieting and training, there isn’t any significant evidence that suggests eating over 1.3g/lbs (or ~2.8g/kg) of body weight is beneficial (12) to losing body fat. He suggests eating over this figure may be beneficial for mood, recovery, and other reasons but as of yet, there isn’t a collection of studies that backs this assertion up.
- Henselmans is of the view that consuming .82g/lbs (or 1.8g/kg) is sufficient for those dieting and training (13).
Please see the bottom of this article to check out more of their research.
What Does This Mean for This Short Fat Bald Guy?
I’ve been consuming on average 100 grams of protein a day for the better part of 18 months. This could be and I suspect, the main reason why I have hit a wall. It was just too low.
Since doing research for this article and being in Japan for 10 days, I decided to increase my protein intake to 150 grams a day in line with Henselmans opinion. It is just not practical to eat a higher figure than that, and too expensive. If in three months I haven’t dropped some body fat, I will re-assess.
So far, I have dropped 1kg or 2.2lbs. I will include a photo at the bottom of the article for comparison. I still have massive love handles – it’s great ;))
I’ve noticed since I’ve been having this amount of protein I feel nowhere near as hungry, I don’t even feel the compulsion to eat 12 matcha Kit Kats.
Can We Do Damage to Our Bodies if We Consume High Levels of Protein?
The research indicates that no, we don’t, provided we are healthy, we have both kidneys, and have no medical condition (14).
How Much Protein Do Famous People Consume?
- Hugh Jackman for his Wolverine role has 260 grams of protein a day (15)
- The Rock eats 507 grams of protein a day on a 5000 calorie diet! (16)
Episode 3 – Losing Weight in Japan.
It’s been 10 days since I started eating multiple 7 Eleven chicken breasts and consuming 150gr of protein daily. Since upping my protein consistently, I haven’t had significant cravings for Pocky sticks or any other incredible Japanese treat.
I have lost some body fat and have increased some of my lifts. I’m very much an amateur but hitting a 95kg bench press is something that I’m slightly happy about.
When I hit 100kg, I’ll do a 5-minute dance around my Japanese gym, no doubt annoying and ensuring everyone who doesn’t already think I’m a foreign idiot, thinks that way.