One of the biggest challenges with trying to get ripped and lean is how do you keep all that hard-earned muscle while shedding the fat during intense workouts.
If you were only able to eat exactly the right amount of calories that allowed you to shed fat, but also keep all the muscle you have built.
Very recently researchers from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine looked at the effects of hard training while in an energy deficit with 26 healthy male athletes for 11 days.
The researchers used very sophisticated blood measuring techniques and they were able to track exactly how much glucose, glucagon and insulin that was produced by the participants. As well as how much glycogen was broken down.
Then men were split into 3 groups. One group ate a calorie balanced diet that was moderate in protein. A second group ate an energy deficient diet that was also moderate in protein and the third group ate an energy deficient diet that was high in protein.
After the 11th day the researchers found that the group that consumed either enough calories or higher protein was able to maintain normal glucose production rates and also spare muscle protein breakdown to make glucose. The low protein diet did not maintain normal glucose production at all.
All the groups did see a decline in blood insulin and glucose while the high protein diet group saw an increase in glucagon.
The guys that ate a higher protein diet were able to maintain glucose production even though they were in an energy deficit. This suggests that protein has the ability to counter the normal drop in glucose production that occurs during periods of high energy output along with deficient calories. IE: trying to lose weight.
This also suggests that protein allows a person to maintain metabolic flexibility which means the body can adapt energy needs based on availability. If you do not have this metabolic flexibility you are more likely to develop insulin resistance and fat accumulation.
If you encounter a situation where you are in an energy deficit during long periods of heavy training then upping your protein intake may be the best thing you can do to maintain your hard earned muscle.
Foods such as eggs, fish, meats and other high-quality proteins are very important. Keeping protein drinks handy is a necessity also since most experts agree that you should try and consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
CONSUMER ALERT: Not All Protein Powders Are Created With Safe Ingredients. Do Not Consume Any Whey Protein Until You Read This Completely
High protein diet maintains glucose production during exercise-induced energy deficit: a controlled trial. Smith TJ, Schwarz JM, Montain SJ, Rood J, Pikosky MA, Castaneda-Sceppa C, Glickman E, Young AJ. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2011 Apr 28;8(1):26.