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Protein is a subject of much debate in regards to healing insulin resistance and improving performance.

These are different discussions that many times get crossed up in how people apply different guidelines.

First things first.

We need protein. After water, protein is the main component of cells and is essential to life. Protein is used to build and maintain these parts of our body:

  • Muscles: Those responsible for movement and the muscles around our organs and our heart.
  • Collagen: Provides strength and structure to tissues (e.g. cartilage in joints).
  • Skin, hair, and nails: These are mainly composed of protein.
  • Hemoglobin: Transports oxygen around the body.
  • Hormones: Act as your body’s chemical messengers.
  • Enzymes: Regulate metabolism – they support important chemical reactions that allow you to digest food, generate energy to contract muscles, and regulate insulin production.
  • Antibodies: Play a role in your immunity.
When we’re broken
Protein has a funny way of acting weird when it comes to insulin vs. glucagon in our body.
 
Protein is low on the glycemic index which means it doesn’t raise sugar on its own. It does, however, have a moderate effect on insulin. It raises insulin similar in some cases, to carbs.
 
When someone is insulin resistant they could have a problem where anytime they eat ANYTHING, their body will produce more glucagon which will work hard to increase the level of sugar in the blood.
 
There is a lot of confusion about all of this and many people believe that eating too much protein will make them fat if they are IR because protein increases insulin and raises their blood sugar at the same time. The important thing to remember is that the problem is not protein. The problem is a damaged liver that’s not functioning properly.
 
Note: In the big picture of making dietary changes, an overall reduction of carbohydrates will vastly improve insulin resistance more than almost any amount of protein will have a negative effect. Do not fear protein.
  • Protein can have a positive effect on someone who is trying to improve performance, lose fat, or build muscle.
  • Protein is the building block of everything you need for improved performance, health, and longevity. 
  • It can provide enough nutrients to keep us healthy if we want to limit our fat intake to optimize ketosis and lose body fat.
  • The insulinemic effect of protein can assist with building and maintaining muscle, similar to the way carbs do.
  • Protein is more satiating. You will feel full with fewer calories and stay full longer
  • The more protein you eat the hotter your body runs which could increase body fat loss (Thermogenesis)
 
So many guidelines
When it comes to protein, you will struggle to get the same information anything close to uniformly recommended.
 
The RDA for protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight. (That would be 66.7g of protein for me, no thank you.) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
 
There is another school of thought that considers an even lower amount of .27 grams of protein per pound of body weight, ideal for long life.
 
Even more liberal suggestions of .67 grams per pound of body weight for people with IR are too low for my liking.  https://borntoeatmeat.com/?p=409
 
What I recommend and what my wife has been recommending to her clients for years (She is a certified and licensed dietitian nutritionist) is 0.8 – 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass for fat loss.
 
Over many years and many successful clients, we’ve never had an issue with someone having a problem with too much protein.
 
I will often recommend 1.5 – 2 grams per pound of lean mass for someone who is interested in maintaining or improving performance. (maybe more).
 
Everything you do should start with a base of how much protein you need each day. Figure this out then stick with it. 
 
Final thoughts on protein
Paradigm shifts take time. Even with the swell towards a more animal-based lifestyle, many people are still basing their decisions on calories in calories out.⁣
Protein is not a fuel source. In the presence of carbs or fats, it’s generally not used to create ATP for muscular activation.⁣

Targeting a % of calories for fat and protein on an animal-based diet will set you up for a stall in fat loss and overall progress in many cases. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

What if you just focused on the protein? What if we only counted (fuel calories) from fats and carbs?!?!⁣

This is the idea behind the Protein:Energy Ratio. I use a variant of that concept in my program.⁣

I usually start people at 1g of protein per pound of lean mass. 1:1 ⁣

This does a few things.⁣

 It’s usually more food than they’re used to. ⁣
 They get full faster⁣
 They stay full longer⁣
 They don’t need to add fat⁣
They have fewer cravings⁣
 Overall fuel calories go down. (Whether total calories do or not)⁣
 They lose body fat⁣
 They don’t lose muscle⁣
 They have a lot less stress over what they eat⁣

1:1 is a great place to start.⁣
Protein builds muscles, Muscles burn fat. If you have excess body fat then let your body use it for fuel. If you are trying to lose fat then stop eating more fat. It’s really that simple.
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