Tag Archives: healthy-living

Protein: How Much and Why?

Protein.

You need it.  And maybe more than you’re eating now.

 

Protein 2

If you’re having a strong reaction to reading that, I get it.  But this is an important thing to get right nutritionally.

Food is made up of 3 macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

All foods have some combination of the big 3.  If we purposely avoid one of the macronutrients, and it turns out that your body needs more of that particular macronutrient than you think, there will be problems.

Arguing with that is like saying gravity is a theory and you’re not convinced. 

And there you sit.  Not floating.  (Ok, I’m assuming you’re not floating.  You could be in a hot-air balloon. Gravity is still working, though.)

That said, there seems to be a fear of protein out there lately. Or at least some misconceptions.

I think that’s a backlash to the high protein diets that were popular a few years ago.

The medical profession started throwing up red flags – rightfully so.  I hope they would do that anytime a popular “named” diet is unbalanced.

I’m not getting into food preferences because I strongly believe food preferences need to be personal.  Sustainability is about flexibility.  What I am saying – what I’m not flexible about – is that the human body needs protein.  I’ll explain why.

Humans run on calories.  And we need them from proteins, carbs, and fats in some combination for optimal recovery, energy, hormone health, and mood regulation.

People need micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) from those foods for optimal functioning of – well – everything inside our bodies that has a function.

Protein and the Immune System

Speaking from experience, teachers are on the front lines of the cold and flu season every year.

sick teacher

After I started lifting, I noticed that I didn’t get sick as often as I used to.

Asked around at the gym and the guys said they didn’t catch many colds.

Why?

One reason may be dietary.  Lifters usually make sure they are getting enough protein.

Dietary protein bolsters the immune system.

Did a little research to find out why.

Can’t lie – I’m not a biochemistry major so most of what I found was written in academic language that was a little dense.

I did find several studies that started with a sentence that said something like…

 

 “We’ve known for a long time that protein malnutrition increases the likelihood of infectious diseases”.

 ~ Dietary protein intake and human health

But why??

Pulled out a nutrition textbook and the explanation there was about the immune response.  Antibodies are blood proteins.  They specifically described how antibodies attack a cold virus.

Protein malnutrition compromises the immune system.  Lifters tend to consume a lot of protein to help us recover from our lifts.  (There are lifters who live full-time in a caloric deficit and they tend to catch colds more often.  That just makes sense.  Fat-loss phases are meant to be temporary because they are hard on the body and the immune system cannot keep up.)

How Much Protein Do You Need?

If you are completely sedentary, the recommendation is 0.8 g per kg of body weight.  That’s about 0.4 g of protein per pound.   So, a 150-pound person who is completely sedentary will need about 60 grams of protein.  If that 150-pound person was maintaining their weight consuming 1800 calories a day, those 60 grams of protein would only be 13% of their total calories!

 

 

Most people who don’t try to eliminate protein sources from their food choices probably eat enough without trying. 

    • 2 large eggs = 12 grams of protein

 

    • The peanut butter on two slices of toast = 7 grams of protein

 

    • Fast food chicken sandwich = 36 grams of protein

 

    • One slice of pepperoni pizza = 16 grams of protein

 

  • Added up = 71 grams of protein.  And carbs and fats.  Most foods have all three.

(This isn’t a suggested food list, but just examples for a frame of reference.  These are estimates. The typical American diet, even in a high school cafeteria, probably has enough protein for the completely sedentary human.)

However, if you get up and go to work or school,  walk a bit, do chores around the house, go to the gym a couple times a week – you need more.

 

If you’re not exercising, but aren’t completely sedentary, I’d suggest 0.6 grams times your body weight. 

That same 150-pound person would want 90 grams, or only 20% of intake from protein. 

Some will argue, cite sources, get all upset with me – which is fine.  Really, it’s OK.  What you eat is your choice.  If I’m not your coach, your personal protein philosophy is none of my business. 

But…

  • if your appetite is out-of-control
  • if you get hurt frequently
  • have issues with recovery from your workouts
  • catch every bug that comes floating by

…I’d encourage you to reflect on whether your body-chemistry is actually on the same page as your opinions about how much protein you need.  Just sayin’.

 dumbells

If you lift or exercise regularly with a favorite activity, go for something in the range of 0.8 g to 1.2 g per pound of body weight.

If you’re an overweight lifter, that might be a lot.  In that case, estimate your lean body mass and then multiply that by 0.8 to 1.2 per pound of lean body mass.

For example, when my body fat was estimated to be 40%,  that meant my lean mass was 60%.  I would take my scale weight times 0.6 to estimate my lean body mass in pounds,  then take that number times 0.8 for a minimum protein intake.  Use 1.2 for a maximum protein intake.

Personally, I like 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of actual body weight because it’s easy.  I train hard, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to worry about whether I’m getting a little too much protein by not calculating my lean mass weight.

Regardless of math and philosophy, if you’re not giving your body the amount of protein it needs, the reality of that will present itself if you start to feel beat up by your workouts. 

If you’re not recovering, look at that protein intake.  That might not be the reason, but it’s a variable that needs to be considered.

 

A Tiny Bit on Protein and Fat-Loss

If you are in a fat-loss phase, those calories from protein are helpful. 

Protein helps regulate hunger.  After eating protein, you may feel fuller longer, which is nice when you’re living in a caloric deficit.

When you exercise, you want to burn fat, right?  

If there is sufficient protein in your diet, the body is more likely to use stored fat as an energy source. 

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “muscle-sparing”, that’s what they mean.  When protein intake is high, the body won’t metabolize muscle for energy instead of fat.

 

Balance First

I know there are different opinions on the issue of protein intake.  However, the majority of adults are busy, don’t have time to research it, and rely on trusted resources.  I hope I’m a trusted resource, and I take that responsibility seriously.

I’m all about balance and am prone to be suspicious of any source telling me to eliminate a macronutrient for an otherwise healthy human’s nutrition.

Coming soon!  

I’ll put together a post about alternative protein sources for people who do not want to eat meat.  There are a lot more options out there than there were just a few years ago. 

I need a little time to research because I’m mostly plant-based eater who gets most of my protein from poultry and animals with hooves.  The animals ate plants – but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant, right?  😉 

 

Need more?  You don’t have to figure it out on your own.
For more information…

I’d like to invite you to join my Facebook group that’s focused on nutrition and mindset challenges.  Click here to join>>>

My book about the challenges of reversing your health with busy-adult life is available now.  Click here to find out more>>>

If you would like to learn more about coaching programs, click here>>>

 

https://liftingmyspirits.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Protein-3.png

1 Comment

Filed under Nutrition

How to Not Need “Cheat Days”

I don’t have “cheat days”.

I’m not THAT dedicated.

Hahaha!  Probably not what you expected to hear from me.

Nutrition supports your fitness goals in two ways…

  • Calories determine whether you are gaining, losing, or maintaining.
  • Macro and micronutrients help your body work optimally and help you feel better.

Food preferences are individual.  (I really dislike strawberry ice cream.  Go ahead – judge. But I’m going for the chocolate.  Or my recent new favorite – orange cream sherbet.  Must a summer thing!)

person holding ice cream with cone

Once you get used to using food as fuel, it’s like seeing the matrix.  Sort of.  You’ll still drop into the illusion and enjoy your favorites.

But those favorites are part of the matrix – they are a combination of calories and nutrients.  In the matrix, pizza has no value judgement – it’s just calories, carbs, protein, and fat.

That said, when I’m in a fat-loss phase (which I’m not this year), what someone else might call a “cheat day”, I call a refeed day.

On a refeed day, I’ll bring my calories up to maintenance – which means my goal is to eat the same number of calories that I estimate I will burn in that 24 hours period.

Usually, I do that by increasing portion sizes of foods I’m already eating.  But if I’m psychologically needing something I haven’t had in a while, that will come in on a refeed day.

It’s all logged.  It’s not a “cheat” anything because I’m not cheating by choosing “forbidden foods”.  No foods are forbidden for this purpose. 

Food choices are individual.  Yes, there are plenty of medical, philosophical, and ethical reasons why people have certain food preferences.

 That’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about controlling the amount of food you choose to eat – whatever that is going to be.

Actually, I do the same thing when I’m NOT in a fat-loss phase.  The difference is that I’m either at maintenance or in a controlled surplus with calories.

matrix

Not everyone likes the matrix.  I do.  I like the flexibility of choosing foods I like instead of using food lists.  I like how it changed my relationship with food by adding some structure and science.

Now the questions are do you do a refeed day, a refeed meal, and when? 

That’s another post…


If you’d like me to teach you how to do this for yourself, or to figure it all out for you  – a customized nutrition plan with live, weekly, support to make it all work when life gets busy – learn more here.

Leave a comment

Filed under diet, Nutrition

My 10 Tips for Fat Loss

Any one of these tips could be another post, but I wanted to put together a list for how to start a program with a little bit of explanation.

1)      Collect current data about your food intake.  You need an honest appraisal of what is happening now.   Eat normally, but log it for a full week, at least. (I’ve been logging for most of the last 4 ½  years.)  You will need to measure and weigh some things.  Get a digital scale to make this chore easier.  I’ve used a digital scale every day since I started and I’ve never used an expensive one.  Use an online food log to have access to extensive data base. It takes a few weeks to get things set up, but if you eat the same foods over the week, it becomes a matter of clicking frequent foods instead of searching.

2)      Come up with a good estimate of how many calories you burn in a 24 hour period.  I remember that “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I’m burning calories all the time, not just when I exercise.  The cardio machines at a gym will give an estimated burn, but in my experience, they can overestimate quite a bit.  There are calculators online, too.    If you can make an investment, there are gadgets that you wear that will give better estimates based on your personal activity over the entire day.  I use a Bodybugg.  I have friends who use a Fitbit.  I rationalized the purchase by comparing it to the medical costs I had at the time for my high blood pressure meds and an ER visit to rule out a heart attack.

3)      Make a food plan based on what you do now.  For safe fat loss and a sustainable, lifestyle change, keep the calorie deficit between 300 and 1000 calories.  In other words, it is my recommendation that you burn no more than 1000 calories than you intake each day.  But there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat for a healthy metabolism.  The USDA’s recommendations for minimum calorie intake levels are 1600 calories for women and 2000 calories for men.  If your intake is already at a minimum and you still need to increase a deficit, do it with moderate exercise.  The metabolism is not a linear equation where the bigger the deficit, the more fat you lose.  To over simplify a complicated process, your body will adapt so when it is not getting enough calories, it will use as few calories as possible to maintain functions and store what little is left over as body fat.  It may even breakdown muscle for additional energy.   This is why people who don’t eat a lot can maintain their scale weight, or even gain scale weight. Over time, body composition changes so that there is more fat and less muscle at the same weight.  This is what is meant by “skinny fat”.  Metabolism is not designed for looks – it’s about staying alive.  Through repeated attempts at weight loss by calorie restriction, many people have trained their bodies to maintain their weight eating less.  It’s really important to get that baseline intake information I discussed in Tip #1 so you can determine if you have slowed your metabolism a little bit.  If you are a woman maintaining your weight at 1000 calories, jumping right up to the recommended minimum of 1600 would cause fat gain.

4)      Make food substitutions gradually.  It is not practical for most people to completely overhaul everything in the kitchen.  Food prep becomes a new routine that will change how you spend your time – and that means “life” will need to be adjusted.  That takes time.  It took me months to figure out a system that worked for me.  If there are other people in the house, their favorite foods may be trigger foods for you.  I’ve been there.  I practiced telling myself repeatedly that “I control what I eat.”  Self-discipline really is an emotional muscle that needs to be strengthened.  And it is hard.  That’s OK.  Hard doesn’t mean impossible.  Each time you don’t cave to a temptation, it gets easier.  Especially when you focus more on how you “feel” instead of how you “look”.

5)      Train with weights.  There are several reasons why resistance training needs to be part of the program for fat loss.  Resistance training preserves muscle and builds bone mass.   To change the appearance of the body, the muscles need to be developed.  One of the most common questions I get is about how I dealt with loose skin.  First, I lost my weight very slowly and that helped minimize it.  But I also filled spaces with muscle – especially in my arms.  A full body program done twice a week, that uses multi-joint exercises, like body weight squats, is a good way to start.

6)      Don’t overdo cardio.  There is an abundance of research out there about cardio.  Personally, long sessions of cardio elevate my cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone similar to adrenaline.  I believe I’ve had a cortisol problem for a long time and it contributed to my weight gain and health decline that led up to that “before” picture.  When my cortisol levels are up, I feel very anxious without a reason and I have trouble falling asleep.  My body stores fat quickly during those times.  Cardio is one of those variables that will start a lot of discussion.  I know what the research says, what works for me, what doesn’t, and that is exactly what I believe everyone needs to know for themselves.  But when I started, I knew nothing.  I had no idea that the cardio I was doing contributed to the anxiety I felt about the process.

7)      Sleep.    The body needs to rest to recover from the stress of the day.  Add in exercise and a moderate calorie restriction and there is more stress on the body.  Lack of sleep will elevate cortisol levels, too. Drink water!  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.

8)      Drink water.  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.  I know some say it helps them feel full, but that’s not my experience.  When I’m hungry, I’m HUNGRY.  For food.

9)      Keep it simple.  Avoid the urge to over-plan and under-do, despite all the information I’ve just thrown at you.  Your program does not have to be perfect.  As you learn more, you’ll adjust things.  You have to have movement.  You need more food your body recognizes (whole foods) and less food designed to make you want to buy more of it (processed foods).  When asked, I tell people that most of my food is grown by God – a very simple description of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, nuts, olive oil, and limited grains for personal digestive reasons.

10)   Be patient.  Permanent changes happen slowly.  You are changing your life one cell at a time.  A scale measures total body weight – that is mostly water, by the way.  It’s easy to feel impatient when looking at a transformation picture because the eye just goes back forth between the two versions of that person.  But note the dates.  Took me three years to get from “before” to the first “after”.  It helped me psychologically to accept that this was the LAST time I was going to lose most of these fat pounds and my life was going to be different from that point on.  I know I’m happier, excited to get up every day, and my life is likely to be longer because I decided to finally do this thing and not quit.

20140105-125349.jpg

References & Resources

http://www.theiflife.com/is-your-exercise-keeping-you-fat/

http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/Chapter2.pdf

© Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

3 Comments

Filed under Cortisol, Life, Weight Loss