Although the link between weight training and protein is never in question, there is a lot of conflicting information on whether it’s good or bad for getting a six pack. Some people will tell you that it’s so vital that protein supplements are essential to get enough, while other people will tell you that they go straight to your six pack as stomach fat. Both answers are partly true, but they’re also partly false.
Protein is essential to everyone, whether you exercise or not, for repairing and building muscles but also skin, tendons, ligaments, skin, and more. The idea that you can only have a good six pack by restricting the amount you get obviously doesn’t make sense. What does make sense is that there is an amount that is ideal for each of us, which is based on your weight, how often you train, and how intensely.
For example, the basic amount for someone who doesn’t exercise is their weight in kilos multiplied by 0.8 grams. So a 100 kilo man would require 80 grams of protein.
At the other end of the scale, a professional bodybuilder or power lifter would be best multiplying his weight in kilos by 2. So a 100 kilo man would require 200 grams of protein.
I recommend that if you’re serious enough about getting a six pack to be exercising regularly with weights and cardio, multiply your weight by a figure between 1.2 and 1.5. It’s hard to be more precise than this without knowing exactly what training you’re doing, but if you want to get it exactly right, start with 1.5 grams per kilo and gradually reduce it towards 1.2. When you start to feel that you’re no longer getting the results you previously were, you know you’re no longer getting enough protein.
Whatever amount you require, it can’t just be consumed all at once however. You’re body can only make use of about 30g of protein every couple of hours, which is why the more reputable protein supplements come in servings of about 28 – 30 grams. Anymore and you’ll literally be flushing it down the toilet!
Instead take your protein regularly throughout the day, not just from supplements but from the food you eat, to be sure your muscles etc are getting a constant supply. I suggest about 30 grams first thing on a morning and last thing at night, plus a small serving an hour before and then straight after your workout. The rest of your protein is then spread out during the rest of the day.
As for protein causing stomach fat, this is true only as much as fat or carbohydrates cause stomach fat. Any protein you consume that is not needed for general body maintenance or muscle growth can and will be stored, but whether it goes onto your stomach or not depends on where you personally store your fat. For men it is generally their stomach first but not necessarily. But whether it’s protein, fat, or carbohydrates, you’ll only gain fat on your stomach or anywhere else if your calorie intake is greater than your calorie needs.
There is one thing you need to be careful of regarding protein however, though it generally applies to those taking protein supplements. Too much can cause kidney problems, so however much you decide to take do not exceed your bodyweight in kilos multiplied by 2 grams. You won’t benefit from it and it gets expensive!
You can get your protein from either the food you eat, from supplements, or a combination of the two.
Supplement sources are mostly shakes, which come ready made or in powder form in various flavours, or bars, which also comes in many flavours including caramel and even chocolate covered. The powder costs from 30p (about 50 cents) per serving up to more than £1.00 (about $1.60) per serving, depending on the quality but also the brand name. In other words the most expensive isn’t necessarily the best. Protein bars are not only more expensive, averaging about the same price as a high-end powder, but they also contain at least twice as many calories, most of which isn’t protein but fat and sugar. It’s basically like having a chocolate bar with protein added to it.
If you can’t afford or don’t want to turn to supplements, getting enough just from the food you eat isn’t difficult. Obvious sources include meat, eggs, fish, cheese and milk, but if you’re watching your fat intake or a vegetarian you can get enough protein from nuts, seeds, beans, soy, oats, and lentils. Not only are many of these foods cheaper than protein supplements and lower in calories, they also have a much greater nutritional content.
I personally tend to buy a mid-range powder as the quality is sufficient for my needs and the price affordable. I have 30g about 3 times a day, and get the rest from food throughout the day. If cost isn’t a factor for you then spend more, but avoid the cheaper kind which is always low quality and instead get your protein from your diet.
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