Weight loss is a subject that always arouses people’s interest, especially when it comes to loss of fat (slimming).
In the slimming process, all macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) play an essential role and each has its function in the body.
Protein is perhaps the one that is most often referred to in the world of fitness and healthy eating as a priority, as opposed to what happens, for example, with carbohydrates and fat.
But why? What is their importance?
In this article, I will give special attention to the function and importance of the protein during the weight loss process giving a practical example of what should be done to avoid unwanted loss of lean mass.
Principles associated with weight loss
In order for the slimming process to take place, a calorie deficit must be installed, which is to spend more calories than those consumed, thus creating a negative energy balance.
This balance is usually achieved by feeding (caloric restriction) and physical activity (increase in energy expenditure).
One of the most frequently associated consequences of body weight loss is the decrease in lean mass, which has a negative impact on our metabolic functions and physical performance.
To avoid this process and minimize this loss, some care must be taken.
Precautions to have during the weight loss process
- Practice resistance exercises (e.g. bodybuilding)
It is true that cardio exercises are usually associated with weight loss, as they stimulate calorie spending, but at the same time they can also contribute to muscle mass loss.
- Consuming the appropriate daily doses of protein
- Follow a less severe calorie restriction
Importance of protein during the weight loss process:
Proteins have a fundamental role in muscle tissue formation and repair (because protein is the main constituent of our muscles) and the recommendations for their consumption are quite variable, as you can see here.
It is the amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) present in proteins that will stimulate the process of protein synthesis in the muscle.
This process is crucial for the maintenance of lean mass during the calorie restriction that happens in the slimming process.
When we have a negative energy balance, the breakdown of muscle proteins can exceed the synthesis and thus can occur the loss of muscle tissue.
To balance this process, it is recommended to combine the exercise of muscular resistance to the proper consumption of proteins.
Important Note: the exercise of muscular endurance will be essential to the muscle construction, however, during the exercise, there is destruction of muscle tissue and there is breakage of proteins (something that will compromise the muscle construction and maintenance), so to ensure the development, maintenance and muscle recovery, it is essential to ensure a good protein intake.
The recommendations of protein consumption during caloric restriction can range from 1.6 to 3.1 grams of protein per kilo of weight/day as indicated in the study “Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training”.
The quantities indicated will depend on the level of training, the physical activity practiced and the amount of body fat of the individual.
When talking about slimming, the more body fat the person has, the easier it will be to preserve the lean mass, so the protein needs can already be located closer to the 1.6.
If it is a person who already has a lower fat percentage, the lean mass suffers more in the process, so the protein needs increase.
However, people with more training experience tend to preserve more muscle mass than a beginner.
Besides all this influence on muscle tissue, the protein takes longer to be digested, so it will enhance the effect of satiety for longer periods, helping to control appetite, a favorable situation during the diet process.
Food recommendations that can help during the process:
- Divide the daily protein doses by the various meals during the day
- Make a protein-based meal before bedtime (e.g. 30 minutes to 1 hours before bedtime), since the body will be in a long time in deprivation and the protein is essential for its reconstruction.
Putting these recommendations into practice
For example: an individual with 80 kilos and who has a recommendation for daily protein consumption of 2 grams per kilo of weight, should consume about 160 grams of proteins (2g x 80kg/body weight).
This quantity can be divided into 5 meals during the day, which represents approximately 30 grams of protein per meal.
Below are some examples of food and its quantities containing 30 grams of proteins per serving:
- ~ 126 grams of meat (chicken, steak, pork, turkey)
- ~ 126 grams of fish
- 250 grams of eggs (~ 5 large eggs)
- 298 grams of Greek yogurt
- 140 grams of cheese
- 410 grams of legumes (2.5 cups)
- 725g of dried fruit (nuts) or seeds (5 cups)
- Tofu 372g (1.5 cup)
Within these examples, we can assemble a daily menu with the appropriate amounts of protein for this individual.
Of course, these are just a few examples, there are several food options that should suit the needs and tastes of each.
Some protein supplements can also help during this process, since they are a purer and more concentrated way of providing you with this important macronutrient. Consult Zumub’s offer here.
Knowing that the human body is not an exact machine, one thing that should be noticed is that the negative energy balance can cause distinct results from person to person, something that can represent a variation in the amounts of fat and muscle mass loss.
The recommendations cited in the article are some of the nutritional tools that can help in the process of weight loss and make each person achieve their goals with more quality.
However, it should always be kept in mind the specific needs of each individual and that these numbers are not static and can be adapt to each person according to their characteristics.