Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Less Protein, More Muscle?

During my time in Pittsburgh I noticed that my abs and arms were really toned, more so than they had been prior to my trip. I thought this was strange since I was working out a bit less while away from home (although my training had me on my feet quite a bit), and I was eating less protein.

See what I mean?!....I'm ripped!

When I posted "A Candid Look At My Diet" several months ago, I recorded how much protein I consumed and it was about 1.1-1.4 grams/kg. Lately I think I've been closer to .8-1 gram/kg body weight (.8 grams/kg is the amount of protein required for a sedentary person). I've read research before that has indicated too much protein (>2 grams/kg body weight) can have the opposite effect on our muscles (our muscles will atrophy instead of hypertrophy). Perhaps I was getting too much before, and my 1.1-1.4 estimation was way off?

Ironically I also found this article a couple weeks ago, which reviewed a study that had indicated the more meat (and poultry) men and women consumed, the more they weighed (and it wasn't from muscle weighing more than fat)! I realize this isn't saying that too much protein causes weight gain, but I still thought this was interesting, considering all the recent interest in high protein diets, which focus mainly on meat and poultry.

As I thought more about why my abs and arms were all of a sudden really ripped (haha, not quite....) I came up with a few more possible reasons:

: I had quit using the elliptical for a month because I no longer had our gym apartment's elliptical. For the month of June I had been power walking, lifting, and doing yoga and pilates. Then in mid-July we got Nick's sister's elliptical, and I had an elliptical at the hotel. It's an amazing workout and I think it's helped me get back my toned figure ;)

Moving a lot during the day
: I never sit anymore. When I was working from home I did a lot of sitting (although it was on a stability ball, and sometimes I stood and used my ironing board as a desk). Now I am walking back and forth across the very large grocery store, all day!

No ice cream: The whole time I was in Pittsburgh I didn't eat any ice cream. It was rough. Could this have something to do with my increased muscle mass?? I'm skeptical because I still ate dessert every night, even though it was never ice cream (mainly Lindt's Dark Chocolate and some M&M's). I don't think I was consuming any less sugar, but perhaps I was!

Less Stress: From April through May, and even into June, I was stressed to the max. I had lost my job, and had a mortgage to pay. My rent had tripled, yet my income had plummeted. I can safely say I have never been so stressed in my life. Not to mention all the work we had to do on the house (and of course, money that needed spending). Stress causes the release of stress hormones, which can actually cause us to gain weight and lose muscle (especially women, and especially in the mid-section). Today I am much less stressed and feel 100 times better about life. I really think this has played a large role in my increased muscle mass.

Right now my goal is to stay toned and keep up with my healthy lifestyle changes. I believe the combination of the elliptical, the walking I do for my job, the decrease in stress, and the decrease in animal protein consumption is really helping. I'll ignore the ice cream theory, because I am not giving it up.

Question: Have you ever unconsciously made a lifestyle/health and wellness change?

What was your last major lifestyle/health and wellness change?


  1. In the medical field, we understand that the population very much discounts the role the stress hormone plays on digestion. When you travel, you become constipated because of the shift in time zones, routines, e.g. even when eating high fiber. It is funny to try and deduce WHY you feel better, but the exact culprit, probably is something you might have guessed
    When you mentally are aware and take time to consider your strength and appreciation of your physical health, it snowballs into MORE health.
    Strange, huh?
    You are a wonder and inspiration for us to CONSIDER our good, to make more of it!

  2. This wasn't an unconscious decision, but my most recent lifestyle/health and wellness change was to begin running. I've been getting better and better and ran my first 5K this past weekend.

    A change I foresee in the future (when my husband and I move back into an apartment and out of our rental house) is being able to use the complex gym! I'm so excited to have a gym to go to and be able to use the elyptical!

  3. I always lose weight when I'm on the road for vacation or business. The change in activity and food selection usually does it for me.

    I don't eat chicken or beef but I do eat a lot of keeps me from over dosing on crazy-starchy-carbs.

  4. I think you're on to something with having less stress and more movement in your life. I know stress can physiologically make you store more fat, but it also makes me reach for more comfort foods.

    I'm so glad you are loving your new job. I never got to respond to the last post, but it sounds like the perfect job!

  5. I think the .8-1.0 g/kg is not just for sedentary people. I've read that it's sufficient for most people unless you're an extreme athlete breaking down tons of muscle tissue per day. I also agree that eating excess calories in the form of any macronutrient will cause weight gain.

    But, I do think tone indicates fat loss (not that you had any fat to start with!) :-) and that when you walk around all day, it's definitely aerobic and uses up calories. The other 2 reasons you listed likely contributed, as well.

    That's why I'd much prefer a non-desk job!

  6. I didn't know all that about stress, protein, etc - interesting!

  7. We bought a home elliptical last fall and I love it. It really kept my aerobic endurance up last winter when it was too cold to run outside. I get a great workout, with the sweat to prove it, while reading a magazine. What could be better?

    I agree that I haven't personally found that more protein makes me any more toned either. I read an article last week that looked at the differences between men and women and consuming protein post-workout; and extra protein did not appear to be beneficial for women.

  8. Very interesting...I unconsciously lost weight right before my wedding from NERVES, ha!

  9. i have so many things to tell you!

    1. i'm about to be donated an ice cream machine! i'm realllllllllllyyyyy excited so you're going to have to start forking over your recipes soon.

    2. congrats on the dieselness! but even more congrats on the stressfreeness!

    3. i've been decreasing my proteiness a tad too! doing the animal proteins like fish and what not at lunch and then taking it down a protein notch at dinner! i think it also makes me feel like blaghed around dinner when i pile the protein on.

    share your tips on how your doing less animal protein but equal proteinishness!

  10. I used to do sit ups all the time, but ever since I stopped doing them so much, my abs look a lot more toned. Push ups do incredible things for your abs too! I guess my last major lifestyle change was going back to becoming vegetarian a couple years ago.

  11. Perhaps the dairy from ice cream is making you bloated too- that happens to me but I still won't give it up! :) A lot of people having extra bloating from dairy...just a thought :)

  12. it's great when you see and feel a difference from just adjusting a few things .

  13. Yay for seeing new results! The biggest unconsious decision I made was to drink more water. One day I brought a huge bottle to use at work and automatically began sipping all day. I think I didn't realize how thirsty I really was when I didn't have my water handy!

  14. It wasn't exactly unconscious, but it was sudden, and I'm convinced giving up dairy for the past 5 days was the best for me. I'm still in the detox stage, so I definitely don't feel 100%, but I know I'll be there some day.

  15. I read about the "protein study" and thought it was interesting, especially since high protein seems to be so popular right now. I guess it all comes back to balance and not being too extreme maybe...

    I once gained a lot of weight when I went through a prolonged period of extreme stress (several major stressful events all happened at once). I made bad choices at the time, which led to weight gain. I didn't know how to deal with stress at all...

    That period of my live served as a reminder to try to reduce stress whenever I'm going through a stressful period. Now, if I encounter stress, I try to be especially prepared with plenty of healthy food, scheduled exercise, and I do relaxation exercises.

    I think having a job that has you up and moving most of the day probably provides you with just as much or more exercise than having a "desk job" and working out for an hour or so every day.

  16. This whole protein thing has me confused, I suppose trial and error to see what works best for each of us is the answer.

    I can relate to what you said about stress from not having a job. Shortly after I got married I found myself unemployed when my paid internship came to an end and the job I was offered barely paid more than what I was making as an intern. While searching for a job I was eating out of boredom. Once I found a new job and got busy again, the weight I'd gained fell off right away.

  17. Stress is a huge one! I know that when I'm stressed and not getting enough sleep is when I put on weight. So glad that you have a job and it sounds like a great one so far!

  18. I hope that protein thing isn't true! I usually eat around 18-20% protein and that's "too much" - 2.0gram/kg! If I went down to 1.0 gram/kg, I would be eating less than 10% protein. I bet the moving around all day is burning more energy than your body is used to!

    I moved to healthier eating so gradually that it was almost unconscious. Now, a few years later, further changes are conscious, but at first I didn't really think about it, it just seemed to happen naturally. Structured exercise is now a much bigger part of my life than it was less than a year ago.

  19. Hm, that's interesting...I don't really weigh or measure myself so I can't really even tell if anything has changed. I'm pretty sure your toned muscles (hopefully not as ripped as that guy, lol) doesn't have anything to do with less ice-cream, though. But I think your take on stress makes a lot of sense.

  20. thats so great!!! i have done that before, but I guess it was concious. WHen I got the Insanity program, I did it to a T. I didn;t change my eating habits though and i noticed my abs were more toned! it was a nice change!!

  21. hmm....i haven't made a major change in a while, but i'm trying to eat more protein. i run about 30kms a week but i'm only consuming about 45grams of protein a day. (i'm assuming that ain't enough since my muscles aren't recovering fast enough. imho.) anyway, i'm new around here and wanted to say hello! looking forward to reading more :)

  22. What an interesting theory. I should how many protein I eat in a day. I am curious to see where I stand since I am trying to build muscle. Interesting article since most of the buzz right now is more protein, more protein.

  23. Wow very interesting!
    from my experience i found that if i incresed my protein and lowered my sugars i gained big muscles, but if my sugar was high i didnt build muscle and only added stress to my adrenal glands. quality versus quantity i think is essential, and finding that key amount for our bodies is so important.

    xoxo <3

  24. Let me just be the first to say I hope ice cream has nothing to do with it! haha.

    I find that whenever I stop paying as much attention to my body constantly, I see better results. I have never been able to figure out why this is, it just is. I think stress also plays a role. Interesting post though.

  25. Thank you so much for your great thoughts about stress. I've been wondering why I've been feeling less toned recently, even though I've still been working out and my diet hasn't changed, and I hadn't even considered how SUPER stressed I've been with all my health issues lately. Thank you for making me more aware so I can really focus on de-stressing!

  26. You bring up a good point. I have been super stressed since I started tying to lose these 10 pounds. I switched schools, had to lower my hours at work, Snuffy began the terr...ific twos ;) and so many other stressors in my relationship and with my family. Maybe that's why my body just won't let go?