A Common Fitness Camp Question-Why Does Protein Matter?
By Unite Fitness Retreat Nutritionist, Brooke Bouwhuis
It’s not all about the numbers but we do know how to get you the results you want. We think it’s just as important, if not MORE important to feel better, move with greater ease and have a positive outlook on life.
Each week our fitness camp clients have their body mass assessed. When doing assessments sometimes clients may hear that they may be losing muscle mass. This can be completely alarming after working and playing incredibly hard all week. These are tools, not definite assessments. Hold on tight, it’s going to be ok.
Addressing this situation is complex. We are complex beings and the process of improved wellness is not cut and dry.
Let’s look at total calories first. Eating less, moving more and creating a deficit is a simplified version of how weight loss occurs. At Unite Fitness Retreat we don’t starve you into your goals, you eat beautiful, delicious meals and snacks throughout the day. This keeps you from getting over the top hungry, keeps your metabolism roaring and keeps your blood sugar steady all while keeping your energy levels up. You want results and we want to deliver.
When total calories drop because a) You are eating less because of the new environment you are in and b) You are moving and playing all day long, not sitting at a desk at work – Your body can begin to break down muscle when it is looking for fuel to keep the mother ship afloat.
Individual variables like height, muscle mass, whether you are male or female, age, how often you have dieted and even your health challenges factor into the equation. Further, other components to success we don’t think about as often are important too. Such as how well you are sleeping, are you addressing life’s stressors as positively as possible, even ensuring you have meaningful relationships with friends and family all while having plenty of purpose to your days. Life is complicated!
Clearly lots of factors can affect weight loss. Let’s look specifically at protein and what happens when we don’t eat enough of it during fitness camp.
Protein is a component of every cell in your body. Our body uses it to repair and build tissue. We also need it to make enzymes, hormones and other chemicals in our bodies. Our body doesn’t store protein the way it stores carbohydrate and fat, which makes it really important to eat plenty of high quality protein when we exercise and push our bodies to new levels of fitness.
Eating plenty of protein will help speed recovery after exercise, put the kibosh on your hunger, reduce muscle loss and build lean muscle.
Here is a list of protein sources(animal and plant based) that are simple to get your hands on and will fuel your body beautifully:
- Grilled chicken or salmon at the grocery deli
- Canned or packets of tuna, salmon, chicken or if you’re really bold, sardines or herring
- Cottage cheese
- Eggs – whole or whites
- Protein powder – whey, plant-based or bone broth based
- Bone Broth used in place of chicken or beef broth – it has a much higher protein content; think 9 grams per cup over 1 gram per cup
- Cheese Sticks
- Protein bars – at Unite Fitness Retreat we love RXBars but there are many other choices in that Paleo/CrossFit space that you may like too. Go easy on protein bars that contain sugar alcohols – anything that ends in ‘ol – eating too many sugar alcohols may cause bloating, gas and diarrhea. We love the real, whole food versions to promote your best health!
- Hemp Seed Hearts – another plant-based option where 3 Tbsp contains 10 grams of protein – sprinkle on salad, cereal or yogurt.
- Greek yogurt – even Yoplait has gotten into the protein game with its Yo – 15 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar – swirl in some hemp seed hearts. If you don’t fancy a dairy based yogurt, not problem. Swirl hemp seed hearts into nut-milk based yogurts for an excellent punch of protein too.
- Silk Protein Nut Milk – 10 grams of protein and 2 grams of sugar per cup of milk which is awesome!! Compare it to almond milk has about 1 gram of protein per cup.
- Batch cook your protein on the weekend, so you don’t have to mess with it during the week if you are pressed for time. Grill your chicken, salmon or beef. Power up the crock pot or instant pot with chicken in bone broth, salsa and lime juice and you have your protein for salads and bowls ready with only a tiny bit of effort and only clean up the mess once.
The ultimate assessment will always be how you feel. What your energy level is like. Are you recovering well and able to push your body more each day. If the answers to those questions are meeh…not so much — increase your protein and your calories a little bit until you do feel a better balance.