The Best Protein Supplements for Fat Loss
Protein Powders and Bars That Helped Me Lose Fat
At fifty, I was in decent shape. I had recently finished my first half triathlon, and I felt good. But when the weight started to creep back on, I knew it was time to get serious about losing fat and keeping the muscle I had worked so hard for. One of the first things I discovered was the vital role that dietary protein played in my fitness regime. Since I wanted to burn excess fat and keep as much muscle as possible, I need to keep protein available in my body for muscle preservation. That meant eating lean meats, eggs, some dairy, and a good protein supplement. I found what I was looking for after a lot of searching and trial by error. This guide will discuss the role of protein in a fitness regime, and suggests some products that have worked for me.
You're Losing Weight—But Are You Losing Fat?
So let’s say you start a diet and exercise regimen, and you weigh yourself on a standard scale every day, or every week. After several weeks you’ve lost 10 pounds. Nice job! But there’s a problem: you don’t know whether you’ve lost fat, water, or muscle. What if those ten pounds are mostly muscle and water? You’re technically just as fat, or fatter, than you were before you lost those ten pounds!
Remember To Drink Your Protein!
The Protein Powder Supplement that Helped Me Lose Fat
This is my go-to protein powder and one of the top-rated in terms of customer reviews. It mixes easily with water or milk, and actually tastes good. I make a bed-time shake with a frozen banana and some peanut butter, and some mornings I add a scoop to old-fashioned oatmeal. This versatile supplement has become a part of my everyday nutrition.
Workout Mistakes That Sabotage Your Fat Loss
True fat loss can only happen if you know what you’re doing. Your exercise regimen and diet have to be strategic. You need to know what your goals are, and how to achieve them. Only then can you “lose weight” in a meaningful way.
Now that I understand the necessity of compound, full-body weight training like pull-ups, bench presses, squats and dead-lifts, I realize how many of my fellow gym-goers are wasting their time by focusing on single, "small muscle" exercises. It’s common to go to the gym and see people, mostly men, working hard on the weight machines. Watch them for a while, and you’ll notice something – they’re often working hard on their biceps, triceps, deltoids, but not doing full-body moves. It’s a shame, because they’re wasting their time. It’s the full-body exercises like pull-ups, squats, and bench presses that will get the best results. These full-body exercises have a strong aerobic component and will both burn calories (fat) and force your body to keep muscle. Those are our true goals – burn fat and retain muscle mass. If you think about it for a moment, you’ll see that this is true.
Protein Powder Supplements and Fat Loss
You can make protein powder part of your fat loss plan because it provides your muscles the macro-nutrients they need to stay strong. There's good evidence that sticking with a work out plan and protein supplementation has positive results. According to an extensive study [Pasiakos, et al], protein powder doesn’t have a huge impact in the first few weeks of a new workout regimen. However, this changes the longer you stick with your workouts:
“For untrained individuals, consuming supplemental protein likely has no impact on lean mass and muscle strength during the initial weeks of resistance training. However, as the duration, frequency, and volume of resistance training increase, protein supplementation may promote muscle hypertrophy and enhance gains in muscle strength in both untrained and trained individuals. Evidence also suggests that protein supplementation may accelerate gains in both aerobic and anaerobic power.”
When I read this, I gained new hope for my fitness goals, and gave me new determination to stick to my workout routine. Weight lifting became an essential part of every workout, and I went to the gym 3-4 times a week whether I felt like it or not. I also had a protein powder supplement shake at bedtime, and added it to my oatmeal in the morning. I had a great routine going, and I got great results: After sticking to a low calorie, high protein diet and lifting heavy weights at least three times a week, I had lost 7 pounds. But more importantly, I had lost 2 full body fat percentages, from 17.4% to 15.4%. I looked and felt GREAT.
I Used a Body Composition Scale to Make Sure I Was Losing Fat and Not Muscle
I'm a huge fan of body composition scales, also known as smart scales. These devices tell you your weight AND your fat percentage. This means you can know if you're losing fat, which is your goal, or losing muscle, which is most definitely not your goal. One of the first things I learned when I ordered my body fat scale was that I was dehydrated, which is not only an unhealthy condition, but also messing up my efforts to lose fat. I made some critical adjustments to my diet and workout plan, and over time learned a lot about burning fat and keeping, or even building muscle. And all of this at the age of 51, when most people my age have nearly given up, and are quickly adding that middle-aged spare tire.
This quality body composition scale changed my life, and made me realize how much I needed to lift weights and supplement my diet with a quality protein power. Since I started using this scale, I have been able to fine-tune my workout and diet regimens. As a result I have lost fat and not muscle.
This is my body fat composition scale, one I have used to tell when I'm losing fat and when I'm losing muscle. It's a high quality instrument that gives you an accurate measure of your body composition.
Here Are Some Good Ideas for Using Protein Powder Creatively
Ideas for Adding Protein Powder Supplements to Your Daily Diet
A high-quality protein powder will dissolve easily in milk or water and not impart a chalky feel to drinks. Still, it can be challenging to find ways to get your daily protein requirements without simply downing a couple of shakes. While two chocolate shakes a day sounds like something you could handle, believe me, after a week or two it’s not so appealing. That’s why I have spent time experimenting with ways to get protein supplements into my diet. Here are a few ideas:
- Protein pancakes – just add a half-scoop of chocolate protein powder to the pancake mix. They’ll be a little heavier than usual, but very tasty.
- Protein oatmeal (Proatmeal) – I add up to a scoop right before serving it. It you put it in too early, the whole thing turns into a sticky mess.
- Power cookies – great with either chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies. This makes a treat into a more healthy snack.
- Power brownies – same as with cookies, but you can use more powder and it won’t really affect the brownies.
- Protein toast (Proast) – for this, try mixing a kind of paste with protein powder and milk. Spread it in on wheat toast like you would peanut butter.
- Peanut butter and Protein sandwich – Use the paste described above and make a Pb sandwich. Warning – this makes a seriously thick and filling sandwich, so keep a glass of cold milk on hand!
Protein Oatmeal Breakfast Recipe
Does Muscle Burn Calories? Yes -- Just not as much as some people want you to believe.
It's one of the added benefits of adding protein to your diet to maintain muscle mass -- added fat loss. It works like this: If you keep or add muscle mass, the added mass requires maintenance and retention. To keep that muscle on your frame, your body needs to burn extra calories -- maintaining muscle tissue is not cheap, in a metabolic sense. While your fat hangs around, demanding little in the way of burning calories, your muscle is a hungry furnace, torching calories just to stay relevant. So if you keep or add muscle while losing weight, you'll give yourself an added boost in the fat-loss department. And you'll look good, too.
Hulk Smash -- Myths!
50 Calories per Pound of Muscle? No.
They used to say that one pound of muscle burns 50 calories, which if you stop to think about it makes no sense whatsoever -- if you had just an average amount of muscle, you'd have to be eating all the time to maintain it. The true number appears to be closer to 20, which is not as impressive but STILL makes a big difference. Remember this is calories burned every day, every week, every month, without any real effort. So keep that muscle around, because it's helping you stay lean.
Muscle Burns Calories
It's a myth that muscle burns 50 calories per pound -- but the truth is still pretty exciting
Clif Builder Bars -- A Convenient Protein Boost
Clif Builder bars are my go-to protein supplement. They're more convenient for work than taking the time to stir up a shake, and there are fewer dishes to clean (always a bonus). These puppies pack a serious punch in terms of calories, so I often just eat a half at a time. They taste good, have a great macro-nutrient profile, don't cost a lot, and add serious protein to my day.
The Difference Between Losing Weight and Losing Fat
Losing weight is good for your health, good for the way you feel, and good for the way you look. But what do we mean when we say "lose weight"? For example, you might lose 10 pounds and feel good about your achievement. But what if all of that weight, all ten pounds, was muscle? I learned this lesson the hard way, after I went on a diet and was amazed at the weight I lost, only to realize it was mostly water and muscle that I had lost. I still had nearly the same amount of fat as I did before!
To lose fat and not muscle, you need to think clearly and act decisively. For one thing, your exercise plan has to include a good amount of weight training, so your body realizes it needs to keep muscle. Instead of losing that muscle, it will keep it around and be more likely to burn fat stores instead. Another way to encourage your body to burn fat and not muscle is to provide it with plenty of protein, which has been shown to preserve muscle during an exercise regimen.
Making protein powder and protein bars a part of your diet is an easy, affordable way to supplement your daily caloric intake with the protein you need to maintain muscle mass. It blends with water or milk, or as I discuss later in this article, many easy recipes. This article will discuss some of the best-rated protein powders, several of which I myself have used during my own fat loss efforts. I also offer relevant research that discusses the way a protein powder supplement helps you achieve your goals.
Stay Strong, My Friends!
Pasiakos SM, McLellan TM, Lieberman HR: "The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review.” Sports Medicine, 2015
Joy, et al: Nutrition Journal: "The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance." 12:86 DOI: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-86