Can protein make you bulk up? It’s a reasonable question to ask, given that protein intake has always been associated with mass muscle gain or the shakes guzzled down by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his kind. Whether it’s a shake full of raw eggs or an oversized piece of steak for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, an increased intake of protein has never really been something women have concerned themselves with – until now.
Women increasingly want to be fit, strong, toned, and healthy, which is a move away from the “skinny” look of the 80s and 90s. That means it’s out with the crash diets and in with the workouts, weights, healthy eating, and – you guessed it – protein!
Read on to find out why bulking as a result of protein is a myth and how protein can actually help you slim down and tone up.
What Is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that is broken down into amino acids, which are then synthesized and used as building blocks all over the body. Proteins are used to build organs like the skin, an array of hormones, your hair, and even your nails! It’s an essential part of our diets at the most fundamental level. If you didn’t consume protein, your body would start to break down your own muscles in order to get it, quickly making that toned, fit body that you’re working towards a distant reality.
What Does It Do?
Protein is needed for the body to function, grow, and develop. Curving and toning your derrière requires tearing down your muscle fibers and building them back up again. To build muscle, you need protein. That’s why it’s recommended that you take protein within 30 minutes of a weight-intensive session; the body is looking for a source of protein to help the muscles repair and grow. And if it doesn’t get it, that change isn’t going to happen.
Eating protein can actually help shed the pounds and get rid of stubborn fat.
Let’s take a scale of one to ten – one being skinny with no muscle tone and ten being a body builder. They may only be a few digits apart, but the journey difference to get to five compared to getting to ten is incomparable. Taking timely protein shakes and eating a high-protein diet does not translate to mass gain in a short period of time. That takes a huge amount of diligence, incredibly specific training with massive weight loads, a high frequency of workouts, and a lot more protein than just one or two shakes a day.
Protein Helps Burn Fat
You heard it here first! Eating protein can actually help shed the pounds and get rid of stubborn fat. Protein requires more calories to digest than fats or carbohydrates and has less calories than fats, gram for gram. As a result, you are already contributing to a healthy calorie deficit just by adding more protein to your plate in place of other macronutrients. Furthermore, protein helps to maintain and build muscle mass, which (again) increases energy requirement and therefore calorie burn. Since, at the basic level, fat burning means you expend more calories than you consume, protein is a healthy way to begin that journey.
Choosing the best protein powder really depends on your goal (and dietary needs) as nutritional requirements can differ greatly. However, ‘Gold Standard 100% Whey’ by Optimum Nutrition is a very popular choice. Keep in mind, however, that whey is a protein found in milk and therefore not suitable for vegans or people with lactose sensitivities. There are plenty of vegan proteins popping up, and it’s just about finding which one suits your body best. Popular vegan-protein sources include soy, rice, and pea protein.
Most foods contain some level of protein, but some are better in quality than others. This is down to whether or not they are “complete” proteins. If they’re complete, it means they contain adequate proportions of all nine of the essential amino acids (those that cannot be produced by the body). Examples of complete proteins are:
– Dairy products (milk, yogurt, whey)
– Chia seeds
So, long story short, don’t shy away from protein. One gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is the recommended daily intake. It’s a crucial part of our diets and an important nutritional factor when it comes to changing your body shape and improving your athletic performance.
Carly Rothman is the blogger behind LeanLivingGirl, a health and fitness website based in Dubai.