Earlier this week, I revealed the first step in getting a bikini-ready body was a belief in and a commitment to healthy living . The second step is essentially prepping your body and mind for regular total body workouts by starting with your centre, building core strength and stability.
Now it’s time to pay a little attention to nutrition. No worries, though, no rabbit food for you yet. This is a seemingly small step and might even be your favourite in this weight loss approach!
Step #3 to your Beach Bod: Increase Your Protein
Last month, I published a post, Heavenly, Healthy Snacks that Last , which talked about the difference in how our bodies process different types of foods. Basically, protein has a high glycemic index, which takes longer to digest, and therefore combining carbs with protein allows one to be more satisfied for longer.
But this isn’t the whole story. Protein provides the body with amino acids which are needed to build muscles and other tissue. But if protein is consumed by itself, the body will use it for energy rather than rebuilding. The body would rather process carbs for immediate energy and fiber. Adding carbs will essentially protect the protein so it can be used for other functions in maintaining body health. (Source: womenfitness.net )
But what are these other important bodily functions? And how does it help in weight loss?
We need food so we can convert it into energy to live. The equation is simple: living = caloric intake – caloric expenditure. Weight loss results when the body fails to get enough calories throughout the day to survive. It will find and burn the calories it needs to function from its storage unit, i.e. fat.
The nature of our relationship with protein is varied and complex. Protein helps maintain a healthy weight while it can also help you shed unwanted fat. We just saw how protein helps preserve and build lean muscle tissue. But protein also plays an important part in metabolism, the rate at which the body burns calories.
If you want to lose weight quickly, easily and in a healthy way, protein may just be the answer because it naturally boosts your metabolic rate . It does this in several ways:
- Your body requires more calories to process protein because it’s harder to digest than other types of food. So the act of eating protein actually burns calories ! Burning calories to digest food is called the thermic effect .
- Muscle mass requires more calories to simply exist and therefore raises your resting metabolic rate. This means the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when you’re doing nothing ! This is why you often see lean people eat more than bigger people and not gain any weight.
While there’s evidence to suggest that protein helps in weight loss (I know it was a huge factor in helping me lose 25 lbs in 3 months and an overall 43 lbs, 43 inches to-date), a high protein diet is usually accompanied with unhealthy fats and too many calories.
The following tips will help you get the benefits from a high protein diet without as many negative side-effects:
- Increase protein to about 40% each meal (40% carbs, 20% fat) – but just until you lose the weight. When you get to your ideal weight, maintain it with well-balanced, nutritious meals consisting of 45%-60% carbs (veggies, fruit and grains), 15%-30% protein (nuts, seeds, dairy, legumes and meat) and 20% – 35% fat (good fat as in olive and flax oils).*
- Use plant protein – try hemp protein powders like those from Vega and Living Harvest . Use flavoured in your morning smoothies and plain in your green juices . I’ve also heard dulse is a good source of protein but I haven’t tried this yet. Anyone got any comments?
- Try clean, organic meats – free-range chicken and turkey (grain fed will do if organic is unavailable), lamb, wild game, wild deep water fish (salmon , halibut , cod , mackerel, sardines). If you’re trying to lose weight, stick to the lean options which are in italics.
- Eat 4 – 6 times a day – because of how the body processes protein, you’re burning calories each time you eat! What a concept, eh? Eat your normal 3 meals a day but in smaller portions, plus 1-3 snacks in between. Combine some healthy protein sources with complex carbs (see healthy snack ideas here).
I hope you enjoy step #3 in How to Get a Bodacious Beach Bod in Time for Summer . Just remember that because protein fills you up longer, you won’t need a lot to satisfy you – especially if you take the suggestion to eat more frequently.
And if you haven’t taken the first step yet, what are you waiting for? Be on the lookout for step #4 and in no time you’ll have a body you can’t wait to show off on the beach!
*NOTE: These are large ranges because my research findings were inconsistent. However, considering everyone is a unique individual with their own optimal levels, a range is probably better anyway so you can find out what works best for you.