If you want to achieve your fitness and fat loss goals even faster, you need to rethink protein. So for Week 8 of the Nutrition Challenge, it’s time to become a protein pro!
Protein is made up of amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle tissue. When you lift weights, your muscles actually tear as you break them down. Protein is responsible for building them back up — and building them up even stronger than before — through a process called protein synthesis.
If you want to build muscle and burn more fat, then you should start including more protein in your meals, and the protein source matters. Wait, I know what you’re thinking… “I don’t want to look like a body builder” or “I don’t want to get big” and “Why do I want more muscle?”
Here are the benefits of increased muscle mass:
- Calorie burn metabolism – Have you heard of the thermic effect of food? It actually takes more calories for the body to digest and use protein than carbs or fats. That’s just one more reason protein is a building block for fat loss!
- Functional strength – Daily tasks like going up stairs, bending over and lifting boxes get easier.
- Recreational strength – You’re free to play with your kids, go on a hike, ski, dance or run, no sweat!
- Shapelier physique – We’ve all seen the skinny person who still looks somewhat flabby, right? When you build muscle mass, you won’t bulk up, but you WILL enhance your body shape.
- More “wiggle room” in your diet – The faster your metabolism is, the more room you have in your nutrition plan for an extra cheat meal or bigger portions without gaining weight.
And ladies, don’t worry: you won’t put on a ton of muscle just by doing strength exercises and eating protein. Women don’t have enough testosterone to build the kind of muscle mass that would make you look too big or like a bodybuilder. So bring on the sleek curves!
Your Challenge for Week 8:
Have a serving of protein in EACH meal of the day for at least 4 days this week. We’re talking one serving of protein for all five meals (if you’re new to the challenge, here’s why you should be eating five meals a day).
How to Eat Protein to Build Muscle
Protein synthesis (the process of building new muscle tissue) is optimal when you eat protein at regular intervals throughout the day. I find it easiest to think about having some protein in each of your five meals.
It might sound hard to get five protein sources each day, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some ideas:
- Breakfast: IdealShake, scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lean ham, turkey bacon, turkey sausage
- Snacks: IdealBar, beef jerky, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, string cheese and turkey slices, tuna packet, hard boiled egg
- Lunch: IdealShake, chicken, turkey breast, ground beef, eggs, any lean meat
- Dinner: Chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, tofu, cottage cheese, eggs
Note for vegans and vegetarians: While beans, quinoa and lentils are primarily a carb source, they do have protein in them. And while nuts and nut butter are primarily a fat source, they also contain protein. There are also some vegan protein powders available. So don’t worry, it is possible to get plenty of protein in your diet as a vegan or vegetarian!
Track Your Results
See if including more protein with each meal helps you…
- Stay satisfied between meals and keep your cravings under control, since protein helps you feel fuller
- Lose more weight and build more muscle over the long term. For best results, have one of your protein meals soon before or after strength exercise. Refer to our workout meal guide for details
Questions? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. Nutrition is only part of the puzzle! If you’re not already signed up for the full IdealShape Up Challenge, click the banner below to get access to our FREE 12-week online exercise program, co-created by yours truly. 😉