Have you ever seen a dog blissfully sleeping on a couch – seemingly out for the count – only for it to spring to life as soon as it hears a cupboard opening or a food packet rustling?
That was me yesterday afternoon.
I was sitting in a cafe, buried face-first in my laptop (pretending to be productive) when I heard the figurative cupboard opening:
“You still going to the gym?”
“Yes, mate. Can’t be arsed today but I’m going again tomorrow.”
“Good lads. I like the pair of you.”, I thought to myself.
They were disrupting my chi by conversing at the table next to me whilst completely ignoring my non-verbal growls for them to STFU so I could concentrate, but at least they’re gym bunnies so they got a hall pass.
Then their conversation took a turn for the worse:
“You still taking protein?”
“Nah mate, protein makes you fat.”
Wow, wow, wow.
Haud oan a minute.
I nearly launched into an impromptu seminar, but I refrained and kept listening.
“I’m telling you, mate. I took it for a while and I just got fat. It’s bullshit and it’s fucking expensive* too.”
Ross’ peace disrupter #1 said it with such conviction that Ross’ peace disrupter #2 believed him.
Say anything with enough confidence and no one will question you, eh?!
It kinda boiled my blood, but then I remembered that I, too, was once a douchebag student giving out shit advice and essentially training like King Bro.
So I kept my nut down and thought about how I could use the situation to help the world.
“Ah, ha…I’ll write an impartial blog post that thousands of people will read, spread and basically I’ll change the world.”
Yup, that’s the type of thought that passes through my thick nut.
Let’s get back to the controversial statement…
The fitness crowd will go to war to defend the virtues of protein, and the general public don’t really give a shit and are therefore happy to believe whatever argument seems most convincing.
But I’m here to tell you that it’s both true and false…depending on the circumstances.
HOW IT’S TRUE:
Based on our weight, daily activity levels and the number of hours we exercise per week, we can work out what’s called our ‘maintenance calories’.
As the name suggests, this is the number of calories required to maintain our current weight.
If we want to lose weight, it’s a good idea to take 10% off that number and if we want to gain weight we simply add 10% to it.
It’s also important to note that there are 4 calories in a gram of protein.
Boring bit done…still awake?
So, imagine you’re trying to lose weight and are aiming for 10% below your maintenance calories…
You’re using MyFitnessPal to track your calories and are bang on the number required to help you lose weight.
It’s late at night and you have a protein shake, because you’re told that a protein shake before bed helps your muscles recover whilst you sleep.
Not terrible advice at all, but if a protein shake contains *roughly* 25 grams of protein then it contains at least 100 calories. If it’s got some carbs in it too (which many do) then it could be 150-200+ calories.
You’ve then gone from being under your maintenance and on track to lose weight…
To being around about or even above your maintenance calorie number, which means you’re either going to be staying the same weight…or even gaining weight.
So, in this instance, protein does make you fat.
HERE’S HOW IT’S A LOT OF BOLLOCKS:
Let’s shoot for a really easy number to deal with and say that your daily calorie target to be in a 10% weight loss deficit is 2000 calories.
Let’s say that your meals are 500 calories and your snacks are 200 calories.
You’re planning on eating breakfast, lunch and dinner and you know that that’s going to roughly equate to 1500 calories.
You’ve got 500 calories left to play with.
You have a protein shake mid-afternoon to help with your 3pm hunger pangs and then you have another after your workout (or before bed).
That’s you at 1900 calories and gives you 100 calories to play with.
You can have a couple of squares of chocolate, some fruit, some yoghurt…even a couple of biscuits.
And you’ll still be on track to lose weight, despite having two protein shakes per day and potentially some chocolate or a couple of biscuits.
Simple maths, eh?
Protein doesn’t make you fat.
Eating too many calories makes you fat.
If you’re trying to lose weight and don’t change your diet at all, but you add in protein shakes…
You’re most likely not going to lose weight.
In fact, you’ll probably gain weight; unless you massively up your daily activity levels and the number of times you exercise per week.
If you start looking to control your calorie intake (which you 100% should do if you’re trying to lose weight) then protein shakes/bars are a quick, portable and convenient way to keep hunger at bay, satisfy a sweet tooth and help your muscles recover between workouts.
*They’re also not expensive, either.
Consider that a tub/bag of whey protein will cost you between £20-40 and you’ll get around 20-30 shakes from it. That’s around about, or just over, a quid per 25g of protein.
To get the same amount of protein from beef or chicken, you’re going to be spending at least £3.
So, yes, you’ll pay more ‘up front’ for a a protein supplement (if you buy a bag/tub), but it’ll actually save you money.
Similar scenario is when buying coffee.
The going rate for a bag of quality beans from a wanky coffee place is around £6.
I know that’s way more expensive than a jar Nescafe, but if you consider that most will happily pay £2-3 for a takeaway latte/cappuccino from any coffee house, a £6 bag of beans – which will serve, I dunno, around 10-20 coffees, is a freakin’ bargain.
So, yeah, to sum up…
Don’t be afraid of any food group, or food in general, just make sure you’re not eating more calories than you’re burning off and you’ll be A-okay.