By Nick Nilsson
The year was 1992. I had just finished a long cycle of weight gain whereupon I had moved my bodyweight up from about 150 pounds to about 215 pounds. And let me just tell you, it wasn't all muscle!
I hadn't been all that careful about my diet previously but I thought I knew pretty well what I was doing. It was time to lose some of that fat.
The first thing I did was make the biggest mistake a dieter can make: in my focus of trying to eat only low fat foods, I unwittingly and drastically reduced the amount of protein that I was eating.
The result? I lost weight and plenty of it. The problem was, I lost mostly muscle! I was smaller, weaker, lighter and nearly as fat as I was before. Not quite the results I was looking for.
In retrospect, I know exactly what I did wrong and it's something I'll never do again.
I FORGOT ABOUT PROTEIN!
Protein is an extremely important nutrient whether your goal is to lose fat, gain muscle or just tone yourself up. It is the main structural nutrient in your body, making up the bulk of your muscles and organs. Protein is essential for proper hormone function and immune system health. Most importantly, for our purposes, protein is used for building and repairing muscle tissue.
When you are trying to lose fat, you reduce your calories. Unfortunately, your body views fat stores as more precious than your muscle tissue and will tend to eat up muscle tissue before it goes to fat for energy. This physiological adaptation used to protect our ancestors from famine but works against us now.
This is very unfortunate because muscle tissue is a great calorie-burner. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even when you're doing absolutely nothing! Protecting your muscle tissue makes fat loss so much easier, it will amaze you. Not only that, it will help you keep that fat off permanently!
What can you do to protect your muscle tissue?
The first thing you can do is exercise. Exercise, especially resistance training, provides a stimulus for your body that sends it a signal saying "keep this muscle, you're going to need it."
The second thing you can do is provide your body with enough protein. This can be in the form of food or supplements.
Good food sources of protein include chicken, fish, eggs, lean meats, legumes (beans), soy, and dairy products. Protein supplements are derived from food sources but are concentrated for convenience and effectiveness.
How much protein do you need?
The standard recommendation for athletes is between 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (or 0.5 to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight per day), though some research indicates a ratio as high as 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day (0.9 grams per pound) is beneficial. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, you should try to eat between 75 and 105 grams and up to around 135 grams of protein per day.
Essentially, you ...