Maintaining or building muscle mass, during an exercise program, is dependent on protein consumption. You can work as hard as you want, but if protein is not part of your diet then you are sabotaging your results. Protein plays many roles in the body to keep it functioning properly, but for our purposes we will focus on proteins ability to positively affect muscle mass.
Exercise a considerable amount of damage to our muscles. To repair our muscles we need protein. Not only will protein repair damages in muscles, but it will also build more muscle to make them stronger, larger, and able to contract with greater force. Don’t worry protein isn’t going to make you bulk up into the Incredible Hulk, but it will help you stay lean and increase your metabolism making your body more efficient at burning fat.
To increase or maintain muscle mass it is recommended that you consume about .6 to .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight a day. Bodybuilders will often intake 1 gram per pound of body weight. For example, if an individual weights 200 lbs they should be eating between 120-160 grams of protein per day or between 480 and 644 calories. It might seem like a lot of protein, but in a 2000 calorie diet,644 calories of protein is only 32% of calories consumed. You will be surprised how easy it is to reach your recommended dose, especially if you are supplementing your diet with a protein shake.
The best sources of protein are found in animals products such as whey, meat, cheese (cottage cheese) . When deciding what type of animal protein to eat a good rule to remember is, “The less legs the better”. Fish have no legs and are probably the healthiest source of protein available, depending on how it is prepared. Chicken only has two legs and is also a good source of low fat protein, again, if it is prepared in the right way. Red meats from cows or pigs can also be healthy, but you need to make sure to buy the leaner cuts of meat. There are proteins found in plant material, but these sources are usually lacking in essential amino acids and because of their fiber content, are not easily absorbed into the body.
To make sure you are getting the greatest benefits from your protein it is best to take between 15 to 30 grams of protein 20-30 minutes before your workout or within 20 minutes after your workout. Pre- or Post-Workout shakes or meals should have both carbohydrates and protein. If your body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates your body will take protein from muscle to meet energy demands, which would completely destroy the purpose of eating protein in the first place.
You are doing a lot of hard work to meet your weight loss goals so don’t ruin your progress by not eating enough protein.