This post is copied word for word from my new (still unreleased) fat loss program! I wanted to give you a taste of it before the launch.
Here we go!
The Benefits of Eating just Enough Protein, not More
You may have noticed that the protein intake I recommend is lower than most fitness people say it’s ideal. There are good reasons for that.
Last year Greg and I interviewed Eric Helms who extensively studied the protein needs of resistance trained lean athletes in a deficit (that means you). He found the ideal protein range to be 0.8-1.3 grams per pound of bodyweight or 1.8-2.9 grams per kilogram.
The bodybuilding world has an obsession with protein because amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. The thinking goes: the higher the protein intake the better the rate of muscle growth.
That’s obviously false. Eating protein doesn’t stimulate muscle growth, training does. Amino acids just need to be there to permit the growth to occur. Eric mentioned that he often has his clients reduce their protein intake because it’s unnecessarily high.
The amount of protein you need is scaled upwards with the severity of caloric restriction and leanness. The higher the body fat percentage, the lower the protein intake can be compared to total bodyweight.
In a deficit, it’s usually recommended to get 1-1.3g of protein per pound of bodyweight or 2.2-2.9g per kilogram. The main reason for that is because protein is the most satiating macronutrient and a higher intake reduces the perceived difficulty of the diet. There is evidence that a higher protein intake is also superior for lean mass retention, especially in those who are very lean.
But this doesn’t apply when you’re using Intermittent Fasting.
When you eat 4 or 5 meals a day, you are almost forced to eat a lot of protein because you have to spread it out between those meals. About 30-40g of protein are needed for a small meal to be filling, adding up to a total of 150-200g per day.
But with IF you eat 2 or 3 big meals a day which means you can achieve the same level of fullness with less total protein. In addition to that, short term fasting has been shown to improve lean mass retention which further decreases the amount of protein you need in a deficit.
If you can eat less protein and achieve the same results, you should do it. You get two major benefits: higher testosterone levels and tastier meals. Let’s talk about each of them.
Testosterone Levels and Protein Intake
A calorie deficit combined with a very low body fat percentage will always reduce testosterone levels to some extent. That is well established. But something most people don’t know is that the macronutrient profile of the food you consume plays a major role in determining your hormonal balance.
Each of the macronutrients are involved in supporting the endocrine system and overall healthy functioning of the body. And the current research shows us that:
- Low carbohydrate diets are detrimental for testosterone optimization.
In one study that measured the effects of carbohydrate consumption on free testosterone:cortisol ratio over repeated days of training, researchers found that free testosterone decreased by 36% in the low carb group and cortisol increased by 15%.
And the low carb group was consuming 30% of their calories from carbs. This is still considered high carb in some fitness circles. So imagine the effects of a 10-20% carb diet which is often recommended by low carb enthusiasts.
Adequate carb intake is necessary to support training, and in supporting training it is also supporting a healthy hormonal profile by preventing the chronic rise in cortisol, glucagon and epinephrine.
- Low fat diets are detrimental for testosterone optimization.
In groups of test subjects, those on a 20% fat diet had significantly lower testosterone levels than those on a 40% fat diet. Studies in vegetarians who are known to consume less saturated fat (and fat in general) also show similar results.
Of course, individual response to low fat dieting varies a lot but a there is definitely a correlation between low fat intake and a decrease in testosterone levels.
- High protein diets are detrimental for testosterone optimization.
Protein intake doesn’t reduce T levels in and of itself. It too plays a role in T production actually.
But an increase in protein consumption will always accompany a decrease in both fat and carbohydrate intake (arguably the two more important macronutrients for endocrine support) and so it sabotages hormonal balance indirectly.
It’s entirely possible that the main reason many men who are otherwise fit and appear healthy, still suffer from symptoms of low testosterone because they neglect fats and carbs in favor of protein.
The issue of low T in fitness models and bodybuilders is not often talked about because it’s embarrassing. You would be surprised however how many men with shredded abs actually suffer from low sex drive and erectile dysfunction. Their extreme diets are highly effective at getting you ripped but nobody mentions that you’ll have a life-less noodle between your legs at the end.
For example on show day, some natural bodybuilders have their testosterone so low it’s similar to castrate levels.
I suffered from this issue as well. During and after my first ever cut, when I didn’t know what I was doing, my diet was low calories, high protein, high fiber and low fat for about 6 months. I was ripped but during that period I had no sex drive at all. I had trouble getting erections in bed and I didn’t even get boners in the morning anymore.
After I started eating a more balanced diet it still took 4-5 months for my T levels to go back to normal.
For these reasons I really want you to avoid damaging your T production while losing fat. The macro split that will support the endocrine system is: 25-30% protein, 30-35% fat and 35-40% carbs. Compared to most fitness recommendations, protein is about 10% lower. Protein should be consumed at the minimum level required for muscle support in training and the remainder of the diet should consist of carbs and fat if testosterone optimization is also one of your goals.
If you want to learn pretty much everything about testosterone optimization I highly recommend Christopher Walker’s program called TestShock. I learned this stuff from him.
Protein Intake and Tasty Meals
I think you’ll agree with me that protein without fats and carbs is super boring to eat. Nobody says: Oh man I just can’t stop binging on protein! Think of boiled chicken breast with no sauce, oil or cheese, or a side of carbs.
All the meals we define as delicious contain a combination of protein, fats and carbs: pizza, burgers, pasta, quesadillas, etc.
The more protein you include in your calorie deficit, the more difficult it will be to have these types of meals. The reason for that is because you max out your fats and carbs before you hit your protein intake.
Using Intermittent Fasting and having big meals, a lower protein intake ends up improving how much you enjoy your diet.
What’s your take on eating lower protein to support your endocrine system? Do you have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments.
The new fat loss program is filled with information just like this. Science based, easy to read and always with practical value. If you liked this sample, you may want to check out the program as well when it comes out 😉