Body composition refers to the percentage of fat, bone, and muscle determined based on gender, age, race, nutrition, physical activity, and hormonal status.
Body composition can be manipulated through various factors, particularly nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices. I have been helping clients hit particular body composition goals for a decade and if I am being honest, sub-optimal protein intake makes my job the hardest and my clients the crankiest. Even with a well-designed workout regimen, a balanced diet with optimal protein intake is the driving force to achieving your 'dream body'. But regardless of your workout routine or fitness levels, adequate protein intake is a vital component to our health. Protein doesn’t just deliver the building blocks for our muscles, it supports blood sugar balance, decreases cravings, increases nutrient status, and supports fat burning. Protein digestion accelerates metabolic rate by 20–35%, while digesting carbs compares at a rate of 5–15%, increasing the amount of calories burned throughout the day.
Sub-optimal protein intake can result in the following:
- Difficulty hitting body composition goals
- Low energy levels and mood swings
- Nutrient deficiencies in Vitamin D, B’s, (these are essential for metabolism of fats and carbohydrates and the synthesis of proteins) and minerals like iron and zinc
- Cravings and surges in hunger hormones (you have nerve receptors in the gut looking for protein and essential fatty acids) hunger hormones decrease in the presence of protein
Studies show that, "Inadequate dietary protein intake challenges muscle and whole-body protein balance (i.e., protein synthesis = protein breakdown), negatively impacting muscle mass, function, adaptations to exercise, bone and calcium homeostasis, immune system response, fluid and electrolyte balance, enzyme production and activity, and hormone synthesis. In the absence of sufficient dietary protein intake, muscle is catabolized to provide amino acids to allow for continued endogenous protein synthesis in critical physiological tissues and organs." Without adequate amounts of protein, our muscles are unable to repair and rebuild following strenuous exercise.
My Protein Non-Negotiables
The good news is that meeting your protein goals is an easy fix, if you are willing to commit. The average daily recommended protein intake is 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of body mass for general health. For those of you following a resistance training plan, lifting weights, or exercising regularly with body re-composition goals in mind, your daily protein intake would preferably be on the higher end, around 1 gram of protein per pound of body mass, to optimize muscle growth. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, aim to eat 120 grams or more of protein every day.
How to Reach Your Protein Intake:
- How we break our fast impacts energy, satiety, and blood sugar levels the rest of the day. I recommend breaking your fast with a minimum of 25-30 grams of protein before 11am. A high protein breakfast has been shown to benefit muscle health and support weight loss by increasing muscle mass, energy expenditure (calories burned), satiety hormones, glucose regulation, and decreasing the desire to snack at night.
- Increase your protein portion size, around 4-6oz of protein at each meal or roughly 30+ grams of a complete protein source, split between 3-5 meals depending on your intake needs. This will ensure you are satiated after meals and allow you to get an adequate amount of protein in throughout the day. If you're a snacker, try to choose a high-protein snack to bridge the gap between meals and regulate hunger hormones. My favorite 'bridge snacks' include homemade protein balls, hard boiled eggs, raw nuts or nut butters, Chomps Jerky sticks, and bone broth.
- Staying committed to a healthy lifestyle requires preparation, so planning your meals for the week can be a great option to keep you on track. On extra busy days, I have found that taking a few extra minutes in the morning prepping protein for lunch and or dinner have saved so much time. Mornings always tend to be a mad house, between childcare and trying to get my own day started, but finding ways to stack habits in the morning saves me time and sets me up for success later on. If I’m already in my kitchen making breakfast, coffee, and lunches, it only takes an extra 5 to 10 minutes to set my oven to 400 degrees, throw some protein on a sheet pan with a little olive oil or avocado oil, top it with my favorite seasoning blend, and after 20 minutes in the oven - they are done! This 10 minute weekly habit will change the way you eat.
Fab 4 Post Workout Smoothies
One habit that sets me up for success each day is my Fab 4 smoothies. My clients and I use my Fab 4 Smoothie daily because it’s so easy to serve up over 30 grams of high-quality protein first thing in the morning. Be Well by Kelly Protein powders are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids that are required from food and cannot be produced by the body. The quality of protein is important to optimize metabolic function and optimize muscle growth.
Refueling with nutrient-rich recovery foods while combating elevated blood sugar will give your body the energy it needs to build muscle. With the Fab 4 formula, you can create delicious post-workout smoothies to support your goals in achieving body re-composition, muscle growth, and overall improved metabolism. These Fab 4 smoothies are loaded with powerful super foods to help accelerate recovery and ensure you are properly fueled post workout.
- Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Smoothie: Cacao contains a high amount of magnesium, a crucial element for repairing your muscles after a workout and preventing muscle cramps.
- Coconut Cream Smoothie: Coconut water is a great source of electrolytes, including potassium and magnesium, that may need to be replenished after an intense session to prevent fatigue and muscle soreness.
- Hydrating Dark Chocolate LMNT Smoothie: LMNT helps replenish the important minerals lost during a sweat session, and chia seeds are a great addition of omega-3's, plant protein, and fiber to refuel after a workout. Visit LMNT.com to receive a free gift with purchase!
- Turmeric Almond Bliss Smoothie: The anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric make a great addition to a post-workout smoothie to reduce workout-related inflammation and reduce muscle soreness.
- Green Ginger Smoothie: Consuming ginger as part of your post-workout nutrition can promote muscle strength recovery after high-intensity exercise. Ginger may also combat any temporary negative effect on the GI tract caused by intense exercise, including nausea, and heartburn.
Blood Sugar Balance
Blood sugar balance is the key to metabolic health, and without it, it can be very hard to achieve the body composition goals you are after. By using a Levels CGM, I've seen first hand the effects poor sleep has on my performance, hunger levels, and focus the next day. A CGM monitors my blood sugar, whether I'm working, exercising, or sleeping, and with the Levels app I can see the insights into how sleep, food, and other stressors are impacting my blood sugar.
Blood sugar balance and sleep quality directly impact one another, and both are necessary to achieving body composition goals. When we sleep, our muscles release amino acids that aid in muscle recovery and growth. Research shows that, "Sleep deprivation is associated with two outcomes: increases in the secretion of catabolic hormones, such as cortisol[28,29], and changes in the pattern of rhythmic secretion of anabolic hormones, such as testosterone. These previous studies indicated that maintaining a good sleep quality and optimal sleep duration could increase muscle mass and prevent its loss." In addition, sleep patterns influence the production of hormones that control hunger, including leptin and ghrelin. Sleep-deprived adults tend to have higher ghrelin levels, increased hunger, and less feeling of fullness compared to adults who get seven-to-nine hours of sleep. Even partial sleep deprivation over one night increases insulin resistance, which can increase blood sugar levels. Both insulin resistance and estrogen deficiency result in complex metabolic disorders, leading to hormonal imbalances, weight gain, and other health concerns.
If you are interested in getting started with Levels, use http://levels.link/KELLY to get 2 months free on your monthly membership so you can optimize your nutrition, sleep, and daily activity!