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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.

Being metabolically unhealthy doesn’t really change much

Protein has a funny way of acting 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 (IR) 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.

Insulin and Glucagon rising at the same time would seem to be a problem. It usually isn’t.

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.

Protein, by it’s slower digestion rate, mostly counteracts any large increase of insulin and alleviates much of this problem.

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)

How much should you eat?

What I recommend is 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass or goal weight) for fat loss.

Over many years and many successful clients, I’ve never had an issue with someone having a problem with too much protein.

I will often recommend 1.5 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.

It’s almost impossible to eat too much 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.⁣

Here is a snapshot of studies that have been done where people were fed an inordinate amount of protein. None of them got fat, sick, or had any metabolic problem.

In Fact:  They all showed a high level of lean mass preservation or growth without an increase in body fat.

Reference: https://www.ketoalpha.net/post/protein-calories-the-constant-battle

Protein is not a fuel source. In the presence of carbs or fats, it’s generally not used to create ATP for muscular activation.⁣

When we look at oxidative priority we find that protein is not a source of energy the body can use. This is a distinction that most people don’t understand….

Energy Generated is not the same as Energy Utilized (Burned is not the same as Used)

Here’s an analogy for you.

You car utilizes/burns gasoline to make it move and get you from point A to point B. Your car generates energy in the form of heat that you need oil to help manage so it doesn’t burn out. Oil is not a fuel, but it is an essential ingredient to keep your car functioning efficiently.

When we talk about macronutrients, Carbs and Fats are the gasoline your body uses for fuel. Protein is the oil. 

Protein can be burned for fuel, if absolutely needed, but its main purpose is to help your body function properly, (cellular repair and metabolic function). Your body heats up when you eat protein, that doesn’t mean it’s using protein to drive itself.⁣

Targeting a % of calories for carbs, fat, and protein 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.⁣

Total caloric intake is inaccurate because 1/3 of the total calories you eat don’t get used to make your body move (burned as fuel)

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

Eat protein to maintain bodily function, leverage carbs, and fat to manage body composition.

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

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⁣

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.

Additional References

how much protein is too much?

http://www.simplyshredded.com/does-excess-protein-get-stored-as-fat.html

https://www.ketoalpha.net/post/protein-calories-the-constant-battle 

 

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