Protein offers benefits that will help you maximise your physique changes as you go through a fat-loss phase. It also plays a major role in muscle growth and repair. As long as you consume enough protein, you can optimise muscle maintenance even when restricting calories.
Protein will effectively reduce your appetite, since it takes longer to digest. It also triggers the release of several satiety hormones, to further suppress your hunger. The more you eat, the more hormones are released and the less hungry you will feel.
It is widely debated how much protein is required, but it’s safe to say that that figure is between 1 - 1.6 grams per pound of body weight. To be safe, aim for the upper end of the scale, and don’t leave room for potential missed gains.
It’s also important to distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day to maximise muscle growth and maintenance. This is because you need a minimum threshold of leucine, an amino acid found in protein per meal to get the recommended dose of 2-3 grams of leucine per meal.
Make sure your protein comes from high-quality, complete proteins, including dairy, beef, poultry, pork, and soy. These complete proteins are rich in leucine and contain all nine amino acids essential for maximising muscle growth and repair.
The amount of protein you consume will be the same throughout a fat-loss phase. Your challenge now is to adjust your other macronutrients to create a calorie deficit. When it’s time to start cutting calories, cut fat first.
You don’t want to start by reducing carbohydrates because they are the primary fuel source for your brain and muscles. During exercise, your body relies on both carbohydrates and fat as fuel. The higher the volume and intensity of your workout, the more your body relies on carbohydrates.
If you need to create a calorie deficit, it will require many more grams of carbs as opposed to fat to create the same deficit. For example, two tablespoons of olive oil is equivalent to two cups of cooked rice. Cutting the carbs would likely have a much bigger impact on your satiety.
This step is important because If you are constantly hungry when dieting, the chances of sticking to it are slim, which means those abs won’t be popping up anytime soon.
Consuming carbs before your workout delivers a quickly digested fuel supply that spares muscle glycogen, enhances focus, and reduces the extent of muscle breakdown.
Your post-workout meal, which you should try to eat within an hour of finishing your workout, should be full of carbohydrates to replenish your muscle glycogen stores and properly prepare your body for its next workout. Eating carbs post-workout also minimises the rate of muscle breakdown, and enhances the recovery process.
To maximise energy before and during your workout, and to fuel recovery afterward, distribute your carbohydrate mostly before and after your workouts. This will allow you to continue training hard and progressing well, while doing everything necessary to maximise muscle maintenance as you diet.
Getting hungry when you diet (which will definitely happen) will have you cheating one way or another. A big secret to keep your appetite in check without knocking yourself out of a calorie deficit, is to drink more fluids before, during, after and in-between meals.
When you drink lots of fluids at once, your stomach expands, which triggers the “stretch receptors” located in your stomach lining to send satiety signals to your brain. By staying hydrated throughout the day, and drinking a cup of water any time hunger hits, you’re more able to skip that high-calorie snack you might have been fantasisng about and stick to your plan.
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