T Nation

How Important is Protein?


#1

I am hoping that the intelligent followers of this site could help with an obstacle that just reared its ugly way into my life. Some background: I am 24 years old, serving overseas in Korea in the Air Force. I am currently 170lbs at a height of 5'6 with an approximation of about 12-13% body fat. I follow Intermittent Fasting, while implementing Carb back loading into the mix. I have had great success, as I have slowly, but consistently made strength and size gains. I fast from 7:30pm to 12:00pm(next day) every day for the past 3 months. I have consistently ate the same thing for the past 3 months.

Now onto the problem; Unfortunately due to a new enacted (RIDICULOUS) rule; the dining facility at every Air Force base, has restricted all meal plan owners to two(2) entrée servings per session.

I usually have 8 grilled pieces of chicken every day, this new rule essentially cuts my protein intake in half. This is making it difficult to hit my protein numbers. I have already begun to increase protein supplementation with whey protein powder. I am looking for any possible solutions to this new obstacle. I do not have a lot of money to be shelling out on supplements as is, and wondering how expensive it would be to begin cooking. As I said this really takes a toll on me financially, as well as efficiently (time and muscle building wise) as many of the other dining food options are not what I would consider "smart" choices. It is a requirement all members on base under a certain rank (which I am) have a meal plan, which is ridiculous as I use it for such a small amount of items. I would much rather have the meal plan money and cook for myself but I do not foresee this being an option. Now having to buy my own groceries is another financial toll that I did not plan on undertaking. My training log, keeps a track of what I eat everyday (chicken, salad, white rice(PWO)) that's essentially it.

My questions are this: Will my progress slow considerably on a lower protein diet? Will I have no choice but to start cooking for myself, if I would like to continue to progress?


#2

What is a piece of chicken and how big is it? We’ve had monster chicken breasts over here lately and 4 of those is well past 150g of protein which is a pretty good starting point.

Per gram of protein, I’ve found whey is pretty good value for money. If you’re happy to accept extra fat, then meat starts to look better but it depends where you are.

Or, hit up your friends for their servings (my extra breakfast for some of your dinner?)


#3

Apologies I should have been more specific; Each piece of chicken is 4.5g of fat, 22g of protein at 180 calories. That gives me about 88g of protein (ideally) compared to the 176g of protein I was having before. Which I think it helped me progress steadily in regards to strength and size. I tried to shoot on the higher end of protein per body weight because I thought it would translate to better gains (more muscle less fat).

That protein cut is quite a reduction, I am afraid my lack of protein from whole foods will hurt gains. My only other protein source would come from salad(spinach, broccoli, egg, and cheese), maybe around 25g. I only have white rice post workout which isn’t much protein at all, and my 30g of whey shake after working out. I guess I will have no choice but to start by adding in another 60g to help alleviate some of the protein loss.

It seems that taking more protein from whey will be the only logical way, short of cooking my own food to hit my protein numbers. It really is just disappointing as I was progressing well following this, and now is another obstacle I have to tackle. The dining facility food is hidden with unhealthy options that are unlimited (snack foods, deserts, french fries, onion rings, and main entrees are usually smothered with heavy fat, caloric dense sauces). The entirety of the armed forces in general needs to really take a hard look at what they are serving there troops. And then for them to complain about people’s PT scores and weight gain. I am getting off track though, thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, I think most of my friends here are running into the same problem I am having. So it’ll be difficult to con them into giving me their food haha


#4

Are you in a deficit? I think higher protein is only really beneficial in a caloric deficit. I genuinely think if you’re eating an ample amount of carbs, you can probably get away with the .8g/lb of BW.

Now I personally always try to get at least 1g/lb of BW, and right now dieting am personally eating about 1.3g/ lb of BW, but I don’t think a stint of time eating a little lower will really matter. Also, try to eat more protein rich carb source. I was broke early on in college, and if you make sure to eat beans + rice as a side with you meat, you’ll rack up protein quick.

I think you’re fine though, it seems a few breasts a day, some incidentals on salad, and 2-3 scoops of whey (maybe add some milk?) would be fine.


#5

Very good info so far. Especially the points Spidey brought up regarding protein from other sources and protein intake in the context of other macros.

My first instinct would be to start having breakfast. Yes, you’d have to revamp your carb backloading approach and it would obviously nix the IF, but it seems, to me, the easiest choice when the discussion is “How can I keep hitting my macros with this new calorie/nutrient cap on each meal?”


#6

Sorry to hear about your dilemma. I can imagine having whey shipped to Korea is pretty expensive.

I looked at your log - very helpful that you include pictures of your meals and list your foods. If you can get unlimited ham crumbles and chopped egg, I think you can replace your protein needs without adding a bunch of shakes.

You say you’re looking for about 80 grams of protein.

1 cup of chopped hardboiled egg is 14 g Fat, 1.5 Carb, 17 g Pro
1 cup of chopped ham is 23 g Fat, 0 Carb, 36 g Pro
1 cup Pinto beans 1 g Fat, 36 g Carb, 12 g Pro (in place of 1 cup rice)

Adding those and you’re already up 65 grams of protein. To get the other 15 - 20 grams, you could add a scoop of whey or add more of any of the options above, depending on cost and the macros you’re trying to reach.

From reading your log, I would guess you are working really hard to optimize your nutrition and training, which is awesome. The meal restrictions are a set back for sure, but with your precision and motivation, I’m sure you can continue to make progress.


#7

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:
Are you in a deficit? I think higher protein is only really beneficial in a caloric deficit. I genuinely think if you’re eating an ample amount of carbs, you can probably get away with the .8g/lb of BW.

Now I personally always try to get at least 1g/lb of BW, and right now dieting am personally eating about 1.3g/ lb of BW, but I don’t think a stint of time eating a little lower will really matter. Also, try to eat more protein rich carb source. I was broke early on in college, and if you make sure to eat beans + rice as a side with you meat, you’ll rack up protein quick.

I think you’re fine though, it seems a few breasts a day, some incidentals on salad, and 2-3 scoops of whey (maybe add some milk?) would be fine. [/quote]
I was eating about 200-300 calories above maintenance, so wasn’t sure if I ended my day in a deficit(if this makes sense).

Great all around advice, and I did know that protein was more important for cutting than bulking. I took your advice on rice and beans to heart, been eating that as my post workout meal along with my two chicken breast every night. Also started using 2 cartons of 1% to add to my shake. All in all good advice, thanks spidey!


#8

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
My first instinct would be to start having breakfast. Yes, you’d have to revamp your carb backloading approach and it would obviously nix the IF, but it seems, to me, the easiest choice when the discussion is “How can I keep hitting my macros with this new calorie/nutrient cap on each meal?”[/quote]
I have begun to consider this as a backup option, IMF is really convenient for me, and have made good progress on it. I do not want to give it up, and want to see what the Carb Back Loading does to my physique with a longer period to judge it on. I try to get nine(9) hours of sleep a night, and getting breakfast or midnight chow would realistically scratch and hour or two off my sleep numbers. I do enjoy my sleep


#9

[quote]LiftingStrumpet wrote:
Sorry to hear about your dilemma. I can imagine having whey shipped to Korea is pretty expensive.

I looked at your log - very helpful that you include pictures of your meals and list your foods. If you can get unlimited ham crumbles and chopped egg, I think you can replace your protein needs without adding a bunch of shakes.

You say you’re looking for about 80 grams of protein.

1 cup of chopped hardboiled egg is 14 g Fat, 1.5 Carb, 17 g Pro
1 cup of chopped ham is 23 g Fat, 0 Carb, 36 g Pro
1 cup Pinto beans 1 g Fat, 36 g Carb, 12 g Pro (in place of 1 cup rice)

Adding those and you’re already up 65 grams of protein. To get the other 15 - 20 grams, you could add a scoop of whey or add more of any of the options above, depending on cost and the macros you’re trying to reach.

From reading your log, I would guess you are working really hard to optimize your nutrition and training, which is awesome. The meal restrictions are a set back for sure, but with your precision and motivation, I’m sure you can continue to make progress.[/quote]
Really good advice, and I think you are write with the unlimited salad sides I think I can make it work. Worst case comes to worst, I’ll start adding another scoop of whey when eating my last meal for the day. Thanks for the advice, kind words, and vote of confidence.


#10

I’d say protein is as important as your goals. If you are very strictly attached to muscle mass and strength while you are cutting then it is very important to get enough protein. If you’re okay with losing some mass, not that big of a deal.