T Nation

Dieting and Protein


Just curious as too how people treat their protein intake when dieting. I've heard 2 real schools of thought.

1)Use the same macro breakdown you use for bulking, but instead of eating in surplus you eat in a a deficit. For example, if you have a macro rario of 40/40/20 (c/p/f), and your maintence is 3000 calories, you eat 350g of protein on a 3500 calorie bulk, but lower that to 250g of protein on your 2500 calorie cut.

2)Cut calories from carbs and/or fats, keep protein high throughout. This means with the example above, you would keep your protein at 350 g of protein through dieting as well, and just lower your intake of carbs, thus making protein (most likely) at least 50% of your daily macros

I've seen examples of both cases working, and heard cases for and against both. The 2nd option, with protein being high, is suppose to preserve muscle mass more. Then again, I've heard a theory that you never want protein to be the HIGHEST macro in your diet, so your body wont become adapted at using it as fuel. Just curious as to what some of you more experienced people in the trenches feel about this subject, especailly from those who have done both


Anyone?? I'm curious at too what people think about this, ecspecially Modok, Stu, Stronghold....


I don't eat as much protein as a lot of people say is required, and I know Modok has said that he's the same way. I tend to stay around 1.25g/lb and find that this is more than adequate to build or maintain muscle as someone who's not using steroids. I've gone higher (up to 2g/lb) and haven't really seen any benefit.

Unless you are DRASTICALLY cutting calories (aka, PSMF), I would set protein at whatever you find to be a "sweet spot" for you personally and keep it there if possible. I'm eating 225g/day right now and am in no danger of protein going over 50% of my total macros, even at this caloric low point in my diet.

I don't set up my dietary guidelines using ratios. I start with total calories, set protein at my "sweet spot", and then determine fat and carb intakes according to my goals.


Hey there!
Ive personally done option 2, because Im more on the side of thinking that lowering insulin levels is more important than over all cal lowerin/burning. I have gotten really good results from this especially fat being removed from sites where it is claimed insulin specifically stores fat "there." I dont like to drop protein because I consider it the essential building block of a good body. I suppose it would be different for how much weight you wanted to lose and how you were going to do it. I like to workout more and heavier so dropping protein with the fear of losing muscle cycles through my head. If I drop protein, workout more and or include more cardio I lose muscle, may be just me though.


Thanks Stronghold. I'm also dieting right now (nothing extreme, just trying to get back down to single digits), and am following a IF Leangains Guidelines, and all of your posts on this forum have helped me alot. So I really appreciate your input.


Hmm, see I feel like I'm kind of 'insulin resistant', as I've always been naturally lean, and right now I have a full 6-pack with seperation in my arms, delts, even chest and legs, yet still have substantial love handle/ lower back fat. IF has seemed to help that area more then anything else I've ever done, but maybe I need to lower carbs further.


Thanks MODOK! Appreciate the input. I've basically set my protein intake between 1.25-1.5g/lb, (may be overkill), and have tried to lower carbs and fats, like you've said. I stalled a bit on my fat loss though, and tried to look into ways to speed it up, and I read alot of 'eat for your macros' and so I got worried I was doing it wrong. Guess I should just keep on trucking!


I've personally never been one to just shovel in as much protein as I can thinking that it'll magically make me huge and ripped. Once you understand the rational for carbohydrates being 'protein sparing', you realize that you can indeed get away with a lot more carb heavy foods than the mainstream media might have you believe. As Modok explained, Protein isn't the body's ideal energy source.

Yes, you can take excess protein and create glucose from it in the absence of 'preferred' fuel sources (carbs, sometimes fats), but it can be better put to use building muscle tissue. Tim Patterson once told me that the 'quickest way to teach your body to oxidize muscle for fuel is to eat a really high protein diet'.... think about that for a moment.

Now, I'm not saying that I intentionally keep my protein low, usually around 250g a day on average (I usually weigh around 205 lbs, 175 onstage), BUT sometimes, and this is simply due to food choices on my lower carb days, I do end up with some pretty high numbers (350g protein, once or twice I actually came close to going over 400g!). The Positives to this happening (and I would never do it on a consistent basis), are twofold:
1-High protein intake is satiating. You will feel full which is a plus when dieting.
2-The Thermic Effect of protein breakdown results in a greater caloric expenditure than eating other macros.

1.25-1.5g/lb Is plenty enough for anyone. Once you've got that aspect squared away, and a decent amount of healthy fats, enjoy yourself and "Fill in the rest with Carbs" (As Jim Cordova puts it!)



Is fat the dominant macro-nutrient of such low carb days ?


The fat intake is definitely higher, but I don't go out of my way to intentionally eat heavy fat foods (ie. salmon, PB etc). I usually incorporate healthy fat foods when I can anyway, but it's because of the lack of abundant carbs that I end up with higher protein simply because that's what is available as far as food choices on those days.



That makes alot of sense, and I feel I've seen you write the quote by Tim Patterson, which kind of sparked this in my mind. I do have a question, what is really considered a 'decent amount of healthy fats'?? I've heard never have them lower then 20% of daily macros, and .5g/lb, so was just curious on your take