Everyone who’s tried or is currently trying to lose weight knows it’s no walk in a park, for many reasons. Let’s be honest, it’s a hard process, but the real tricky challenge is making sure that you are losing the correct kind of weight.
So, when you’re cutting back and burning those copious amounts of calories, there is a very important concern that some of your muscles can also be turned on in the process of all that fat being burned.
The real question here is, how do you stop that? What exactly can you use, and can protein powder help you to save that muscle mass while you are actively losing weight?
What happens when you cut down calories ?
If we want to start to understand how to preserve muscle mass, we first need to understand and be clear on everything that puts all that lean muscle tissue at risk. It was mentioned before that in an effort to lose weight you need to cut calories, and in turn all of that forces your body to begin looking for other sources of energy.
Because, after all, you are intentionally cutting back on the amount of energy that you are consuming via calories, while simultaneously upping the amount that you’re using through vigorous exercise. This, of course, makes you burn the fat content in your body at this point, but your body is pretty protective and hesitant to give up its fat stores.
That makes the body start converting amino acids, that should be contributing to tissue and muscle growth, into glucose for fuel. Those amino acids might as well come from your blood stream. However, the more worrisome place where they could be taken from is directly from your muscle tissue.
Why does this matter ? Well, knowing why your muscle tissue is put at risk helps to explain what to do to help protect it.
Does eating more protein help preserve muscle mass?
A high-protein diet with a protein intake higher than the requirement level will help in preserving muscle and losing more fat. On the other hand, research has shown that diets low in protein, where protein intake is lower than the requirement level pose a higher risk of gaining weight.
Providing your body with an amount of amino acids that is more than what you’d normally be needing will make sure that there is enough protein to support muscle mass, muscle health as well as production of energy.
Research on protein and muscle mass
According to a study done in 2012 in the journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, they had conducted an experiment where 130 overweight adults followed one out of two diets for a year, both of which were extremely low calorie.
However, one of the diets was high in protein whereas the other was low, and at the end of the study, both of the groups had lost roughly around the same amount of weight.
Although the group following the high protein diet lost significantly more fat than the ones following the low protein diet. This in turn means that by following the high protein diet, they managed to preserve the muscle mass while they were actively losing fat.
There also was another study done by the University of Birmingham in the UK – School of Exercise Sciences, that recruited 20 athletes between the ages of 18 and 40.
Before the study commenced, they were consuming about 1.6 grams of protein per one kilogram of body weight. Afterwards all the athletes went on a diet and began eating 40 % less calories than they were actively burning every day.
They were split into two groups. The first group ate their regular combo of protein, fat, and carbs, just 40% less, so naturally their protein intake decreased proportionately as well. Meanwhile the second group substituted protein for carbs and fat and ate about 2.3 grams of protein per one kilogram of body weight, so they still technically ate 40 % less calories, but increased their protein intake, and compensated that by furthermore lowering the amount of fat and carbs.
The results were the following: the second group, which were the ones that had a higher protein intake, barely lost much if any muscle mass, and only lost fat. While group one on the other hand lost both fat and muscle mass.
How much protein is the RIGHT amount of protein?
The question of the hour right now is – how much protein do you actually need to get this effect?
Looking at the studies mentioned above, they used 2.3 grams of protein per one kilogram of body weight, and if you are going by the imperial system – that’s roughly around 1.04 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but that was used on bodybuilders and athletes. That means that depending on your level of regular physical activity, the number could vary quite a bit.
The best step to take is to increase the amount of protein intake gradually and to make sure that you digest all of it well enough, so that during your check ups you don’t lose muscle. You should do those check ups weekly. And if you notice any decreasing of muscle mass, you should gradually up the amount to around 1 gram of protein for each kilogram, or pound, of body weight.