On a theoretical level, losing weight is easy. All you have to do is ensure your body gets less calories per day than it burns throughout the day. The body will then have to compensate for the lack of calories by burning some of its fat. As the Body Mass Index (BMI) decreases, body weight reduces accordingly. Unfortunately, things are not a simple as they may seem. When the body experiences an extreme lack of calories, muscle mass can be lost as well. This is a highly undesirable situation for bodybuilders and sportspeople – especially those who are using muscle building supplements – who have worked hard to build their strength and improve their physique. Nor is it ideal for the average person who is trying to lose weight because, pound for pound, your muscle tissue burns three times as many calories per day as your adipose tissue (body fat).
Calories in Action
The amount of calories your body needs per day depends on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and your body expends energy in three ways:
- By physical activity
- Via the Resting Metabolic Rate
- By digesting food
Number one is a no-brainer. If you hit the track, start lifting weights, or pursue any other physical activity you will burn more calories than you would if you were sitting on the couch because the chosen activity will require more energy.
The Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is how many calories you would burn if you remained on the couch or where asleep in your bed. It’s the name given to the amount of energy the body expends on basic biological functions, including the ones that are necessary to keep you alive, like respiration and maintaining cardiovascular activity. Energy is expended every time you blink your eyes and even thinking requires calories. In fact, brain activity accounts for around 20% of the RMR. So, although you burn more calories when you are physically active, there is still a lot going on behind the scenes.
It’s rather strange to think of the digestive process in terms of calorie expenditure, but nevertheless, when your body is provided with food it has to expend energy to digest it and then put it to use or store it. This is known as the thermic effect of food and some types of food are easier to process than others. Sugar is quick and easy to digest. Foods that are high in fiber or protein have a greater thermic effect. So, although all food types are going to increase the number of calories provided to the body, some choices are more sensible than others.
Power-Up Your Fat Burning with Protein
Protein has a greater thermic effect than any other nutrient. That alone is a good reason to reduce the amount of sugar and carbohydrates you are eating and make the switch to a high-protein diet, but it’s not the only reason. High protein food also helps the body retain muscle mass and in so doing improves the ratio of muscle to fat, thereby helping to provide a physique that is better equipped for fat burning because muscle tissue has a greater energy demand than adipose tissue. This does not mean you have to become muscle bound to improve your fat burning prospects, but improving your muscle to fat ratio will increase your RMR and help you to burn more calories 24-hours per day. That is a very desirable state of affairs and eating a diet that is high in protein will help bring it about.
Adopting a Commons Sense Attitude to Weight Loss
Although becoming pro-protein is one of the best ways to get a leaner, stronger body; some common sense is still required. Some high protein foods like cheese, bacon, and processed meat such as sausages and burgers, are also high in fat. Fat contains nine calories per gram, so these options are best avoided. Eggs are also worthy of special consideration because although they are a good source of protein, the yolks are high in cholesterol. So, if you want to boost your protein intake with eggs, the yolks are best discarded. Skinless chicken breast, lean steak, white fish, pork tenderloin, and low-fat yoghurts are also good options. However, although eating a diet that is high in protein and low in calories can ultimately help you to increase your RMR and burn more calories it’s only one way to boost your TDEE. Exercise is another and will also help support improved muscle mass. So making smart food choices and keeping active is the best way to go.