Why Protein is Essential Even if You’re Not Weight Training
It’s difficult to look into the topic of fitness without stumbling across references to protein and its role in achieving fitness and training goals. It’s often described as one of the several building blocks of your body and essential as part of any training and nutrition plan. But this often comes shrouded in confusion.
A common question asked by people new to the fitness world is “why do I need to think about my protein intake when I’m not looking to build muscle?”. It’s a question that perhaps stems from being exposed to protein supplement products with strong branding that suggests the target audience is exclusively those aiming to bulk and add mass with intense training. It’s not always the case, but it’s very easy for a person who has begun a fitness journey with weight loss goals to feel that protein doesn’t relate to what they’re trying to achieve.
A Simple Explanation - How Your Body Uses Protein
If you eat a balanced diet that specifically includes protein sources and your training is moderate, chances are that you’re close to the protein intake that you need. If we simplify how protein works, it’s a macronutrient (alongside fats and carbohydrates) that gives your body the tools to repair and recreate muscle tissue.
Every time you exercise, you give your body reason to create new muscle fibres, which is how your body adapts to new movements and without you even thinking about it, this has been happening your entire life. You’ll probably recall that in the past, movements you perform for the first time have been quite difficult but then you find that eventually, it becomes easier. Protein is the part of your nutrition that fuels the creation of those new muscle fibres.
For those who train with the goal of building strength or muscle growth for aesthetics, the use of protein supplements ensures the body has plenty of protein ready to use and take advantage of every single workout. This is accompanied by intense weight training designed to encourage such growth.
Protein as a Weight Loss Tool
When embarking on any new training routine, always bear in mind that new movements will probably require new muscle tissue. For this to happen, you’ll need to ensure you include enough protein in your diet so that your body can adapt.
Without enough protein in your diet, muscle mass can be lost as well as fat which could hamper your training in the long run. When we embark on a new fitness goal, we often begin consuming fewer calories every day (because you’ve been told to be in a calorie deficit) and that often means our protein consumption falls with it.
However, consuming enough protein makes it easier for your body to maintain your existing muscle mass, which is why even if you’re not lifting heavy weights, protein is still an important consideration.
Points to remember:
- Aim for ‘fat loss’ rather than ‘weight loss’
- Muscle is what shapes your body, fat is what distorts it. This is true for people of every height, build and shape.
- Losing muscle mass will make your weight fall, but not necessarily in a positive or sustainable way
- Adequate protein consumption gives your body the best chance of holding onto existing muscle mass and adapting your body to new movements
The take away message is that by ensuring you have enough protein in your diet, you give your body the best chance of losing more fat than muscle when aiming to reduce the number on the scale.