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A friend recently went vegetarian just for kicks, as an experiment. In 6 weeks, the friend lost the 8 lbs that no amount of exercise could burn off without quitting dinnertime wine. (This friend is an athletic sort, a strength and fitness buff but not a fanatic.) She asked me how that could happen since she goes light on carbs.
It turned out that the answer was easy: Too much protein.
That sounds crazy, doesn't it? It's not crazy because any excess protein (protein in excess of what you body needs to maintain or repair muscle) is converted into and stored as fat. Many people are not aware that most of their steak ends up as body fat.
So whether you are sedentary (less than 6 hrs/week of fairly intense exercise/wk, not including walking) or not, your protein needs might be less than you imagine because you can only use about 20 gms of protein every 4-6 hours.
That's why people who restrict carbs, and replace the food volume with protein, have trouble losing body fat.
People who pursue daily strength-building (weights) or daily endurance training (ie triathlete types) can need more than the basic 45 gm/day for women or 55 gm/day for men - maybe up to 100-150 gms/day. That's why they tend to go for 4-5 smaller balanced (carbs, protein, fats/oils) meals/day.
Nutrition and fitness go hand-in-hand, and it takes a little bit of thoughtfulness. A few simple recommendations:
If you do barbells/powerlifts 3+ times/week, eat a lot of everything. If in daily endurance race training, eat a lot of everything. Until "stuffed". If a regular daily exerciser (some wts, some calis, some cardio, some endurance), 45-60 gms/day is plenty in divided doses. For weight loss, cut the volume dramatically. If overweight, you do not really need hardly any food at all other than some protein and vitamins and minerals. Overweight people have no caloric needs.
Grams protein conversion to lbs for all sorts of foods are easily found online. For one example, a regular chicken breast contains around 55 gms of protein. So if you eat one in a meal, about 30 gms of that protein goes to body fat and some in excretion. Sliced into thirds or quarters over the course of a day, that breast would be plenty for a full-grown male who works out.
So, again, volume management matters for weight-lifters, and for the overweight. It's a "First World Problem." And do not imagine that protein does not become body fat. It does.
Funny, the "resources" at the bottom of that Livestrong page go 404. Except for the one that links back to itself.
While it's true that at very high levels of consumption your body has the ability to turn amino acids (one does not absorb protein, one absorbs amino acids and peptides) into fat, it doesn't appear to work that way in practice:
An average people can absorb about 10g of protein an hour tops, and proteins are digested at different speeds (whey digests fast. Steak digests slow.) So if you have 20g of whey protein in a shake it might get through the portion of the small intestine before being completely digested and absorbed. OTOH, if eat a large quantity of steak your stomach will only release it in small amounts into the intestines.
Your friend probably lost weight because it is easier for the body to do the "fatty acids->glycogen" thing than the "amino acids->fattys acids -> glycogen" thing. Plus longer digesting proteins hang around in the stomach longer giving "full" feeling slightly longer.
Which is to say she lost weight because she absorbed fewer calories than she used.
The friend probably lost weight on vegetarian diet either because: (1) they ate fewer calories because vegetarian diets tend to be more filling, and/or (2) they lost muscle mass. When you diet and exercise to lose weight, the method associated with losing more fat than muscle is to combine "high" protein intake with resistance training and HIIT.
I respectfully disagree. Carbs don't "make" you fat or overweight. Your genetics do. Diet can counter that for a few months or weeks but most likely she will go off her diet and regain the weight. Also, most likely as she ages she will gain even more weight which will also be difficult to lose without dieting. I can guarantee you that there are others, male and female, who eat carbs and proteins without regard to any diet who do not gain excessive weight. Different genes.
The simple fact is your body wants to retain some fat or even a lot of fat and it will take constant never ending effort to prevent it. I'm not saying to give up, I am merely saying that there is no magic diet be it vegan or paleo or whatever. Some may work for some people but that is more about their genes than it is about the diet.
Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, Robert Santana, Layne Norton, and The Muscle PhD are doing a lot of work regarding protein and training. Those of us in the older age range require more protein as our bodies don't use the protein as efficiently as in our youth. What is the magic number? I don't know. A lot would depend on the person and how active you are. According to Norton, who is a nutritionist, it still all comes down to caloric intake. If you are mainly consuming meat it is pretty hard to get fat.
Second, hey, Robert Santana, I know him. I've had a few coaching sessions with him to work on my lifting form. Smart guy, knows his stuff and really strong (500 lb deadlift and 420 lb squat at 175 lb body weight!).