You know you need protein, but do you really know how much? Protein is an essential need when it comes to building muscle, maintaining muscle and building strength, but if your diet is falling short on protein, you could be left weak and flat with little muscle gains. Read these four signs that your diet is falling short on protein.
You’re Not Making Gains in the Gym
Feeling weak during your workouts? No pump and feeling flat? Protein not only builds muscle but also helps build strength. In fact, protein is essential when it comes to recovery and reducing muscle fatigue, which can help increase your strength during workouts. In one study, it was shown that a group given 27.5 grams of protein before sleep for 12 weeks experienced increases in muscle strength after resistance exercise training to a significantly greater extent than the group who received a non-caloric placebo, while also experiencing increases in muscle size.
Protein Increasing Tip: Have a protein-rich snack before your workout to help sustain your level of aminos in your muscles. You can also sip on an amino acid supplement, before, during and after your workouts. Amino acids have been shown to help reduce fatigue and stimulate recovery.
You’re Not Building Muscle
Protein is the foundation of building muscle. If you’re following a diet that is not high in protein, you will not be able to build muscle or repair and recover muscle post-workout. This can have you looking skinny fat instead of lean and trim! In the muscles, certain amino acids and the level of aminos available ensures that the pathways of protein synthesis or muscle building are turned on. If your goal is to build muscle, you will need to eat more protein— more than you might be used to.
Protein Increasing Tip: Eat at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This is enough to ensure you’re making a full recovery in the gym and stimulating muscle growth. Eat protein from sources such as chicken, lean red meat, whole eggs, egg whites, whey protein and low-fat organic dairy.
You’re Not Burning Fat
Feel like your diet is not resulting in fat loss? If you’re not following a high-protein, low-carb diet, it will be hard to get the results you’re after. A high-protein diet can result in two to three times quicker weight loss versus diets that are high in carbohydrates and of the same caloric value. Protein helps increase lean muscle mass, which can have a direct effect on your metabolism. High-protein foods also have a thermic effect. Protein takes more energy to burn off versus other foods.
Protein Increasing Tip: Be sure you’re using a diet that has a calorie deficit and uses a macronutrient breakdown that is at least 40 percent protein, about 30 percent or fewer carbs and 30 percent or less fat. This balance is enough to help ensure you get enough protein, while also getting enough of the other macronutrients as well.
You’re Hungry Between Meals
If you’re feeling hungry between meals and craving sugar, you could be experiencing a protein shortage! Why? Protein is a highly satiating ingredient. It has been shown to blunt appetite between meals and reduce food intake. In one study, an increase in protein from 15 to 30 percent of energy intake produced a sustained decrease in ad libitum caloric intake. It’s been suggested that this is the result of an increased central nervous system leptin sensitivity, which can also result in significant weight loss.
Protein Increasing Tip: To keep hunger reduced during the day, be sure to eat protein with every meal, spaced out throughout the day. A small serving of 20 to 30 grams depending on your needs is plenty to keep appetite away. Additionally, slow-digesting proteins such as caseinate protein found in caseinate protein powder or in cottage cheese can help keep hunger reduced for hours because of its slow-digesting properties. Making this protein perfect for your last meal for bedtime or for in-between larger meals.
Weigle DS, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005. 82(1): 41-8.
Snijders T, et al. Protein ingestion before sleep increases muscle mass and strength gains during prolonged resistance-type exercise training in healthy young men. J Nutr. 2015. 145(6): 1178-84.