Protein is the basis of life. One of the things I have realized from switching diets and trying out new ways to eat is that getting enough protein is vitally important. If you are an athlete, wishing to change your body composition, or just want to build muscle, you need even more protein than just the average person.
I have tried many different diets — raw ’till 4, vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, fruititarian, paleo, whole30, and now Jamie Eason’s LiveFit challenge. The ones that have worked for me best are always the ones with a significant amount of protein intake. When I first attempted fruititarian/raw ’till 4, I was constantly hungry. Through all of this I tracked calories, and I was eating a huge amount more than usual simply because it didn’t fill me up and my body burned through the sugar quickly. The one month that I was able to eat 100% clean the entire time was when I was eating enough protein by eating grilled chicken and an otherwise veggie- and fruit-filled diet.
Just to dip a little bit into the science side, protein is a macromolecule that consists of chains of amino acids. They perform various functions including DNA replication and catabolizing metabolic reactions as enzymes, which is necessary for your metabolism to work effectively. They are also the main component of muscle tissue. You can imagine why, then, it is necessary for athletes to consume sufficient amounts (.7-1.5g/lb of lean body mass) in order to gain and preserve muscle mass. Even for non-athletes, protein is necessary (0.4g/lb lean body mass) because it is made of amino acids that are not produced naturally in the body, but are necessary for human body functions. These amino acids help build new tissue and repair damaged muscles. In addition, increased protein consumption triggers the increased production of the hormone IGF-1, which tells the body that it is time to synthesize muscle proteins.
So, what do you have to do to begin to change your body composition?
- Consume the right amount of protein for your lean body mass (which can be calculated: body weight – (% fat x body weight)= lean mass).
- Get the right ratio of macros (I eat 40% carbs and protein, 20% healthy fats) — not only in a day but also at most meals. Getting the right macros at each meal is important because the ratios help keep you full until the next meal.
- Eat the right kinds of foods. Just because you have the right macros, doesn’t mean that eating ice cream and bacon will give you the same results as eating avocado, kale and egg whites. While many people agree with the IIFYM lifestyle (if it fits your macros — a.k.a. as long as you have the right ratio you can eat what you want), I am a firm believer that getting vitamin-rich and healthy foods will change your body infinitely more than eating a junk-filled diet. (I also think that these healthy foods will help you have more energy, feel better, and help our earth, but that rant is for another day).
- Eat enough food. Even if you are getting enough protein and your macros are right, you will not change your body composition if your body is in starvation mode! Try to eat every 2-3 hours and get enough calories in to support your exercise regimen.
To give you guys an idea of how I get in my macros, here is an example of my food intake (I am pescetarian/dairy-free!)
- Breakfast: 1 cup egg whites, .5 cup gluten-free rolled oats
- Snack 1: medium sweet potato, 3 oz organic tofu, 1 cup chopped broccoli
- Lunch: can of tuna, slice of ezekiel bread, 1 cup kale, 1/8 avocado, 8 grape tomatoes
- After-Workout Snack: Protein Pancakes + 1.5 tbsp almond butter
- Dinner: 1 cup fajita vegetables, 6 oz tofu, 1 cup brown rice
- Snack 3: 1 cup egg whites, 1/8 avocado, 8 grape tomatoes
Totals: 1,742 calories — 172g carbs, 171g protein, 39g fat (40%, 40%, 20%)
*note: this day was definitely on the higher side of protein! I usually get between 130-150g per day.
The protein pancakes are made with egg whites, banana, oats, almond milk, and vega performance protein! I’ll post a recipe for you all later 🙂
Good luck to you all, and get in that protein!