T Nation

Protein For Fat Loss?


(fluffy on the outside, newbie on the inside)

Hey guys! (sorry for the long post)

Like the typical newbie I have a lot of question, but I'll concentrate my post around just two. Protein and Cardio vs. Circuit training

Should I consume protein shakes, when my goal now is fat loss?
I searched through the overwhelming amount of information on this site and found more than a few posts and articles on the protein subject. Like this one for example:
"The Protein Prejudice by John M Berardi".

But I have not really found the answer to my concern. From what I have read so far, you could say that protein is an "essential" part of supplementation, whether you are bulking or cutting.

The thing is that I have a friend that is finishing his studies to be a PA (physicians assistant) and he explained to me that I shouldn't really be drinking protein shakes (or Creatine for that matter)' because I would not benefit from them.

My body would use the protein for energy instead of my fat (and carbs) and I would not be able to loose weight. Now besides my confusion on this matter.

I'm left with yet another question. As he explained to me, our bodies will always prefer to preserve muscle tissue over fat stores. So, it will take apart the fat first before going to the muscle. At what point does catabolism start on a person? Because if I were to take what was said literally then, as long as a person have some fat stores in his body, there should not be any worries about catabolism. Right?

A little info on myself.
Im 31 years old / 5'10" / 214 pounds and 31% fat.

I started exercising about 2-1/2" month ago with my wife using Chad Waterbury's TBT. It's worked great for both of us. Gaining strength quickly. Now that we are both a bit more "toned" my wife wants to concentrate more on fat loss.

I had a clear plan on what I was going to do. I was going to start on Waterbury's 10 x 3 For Fat Loss and do the T-Dawg Diet. But after talking with my fried my plans (and what I thought to be a "good" basis of the gathered information I had so far) have been thrown out the window.

Like I said he has a medical background and I respect his decision. And since I'm dragging my wife into this. I want it to be the best decision possible. Don't what to be switching from one workout to another unnecessarily or taking any unnecessary supplements.

So, is a short "hybrid" circuit style workout more effective than a steady low intensity "longer" (45-60 min) cardio workout for FAT loss? Are the similar?

Thanks in advance for any comments.


your buddy is wrong. I suggest reading as many diet articles on here from Berardi, Lowery, and even Shugart as muh as possible. You'll be able to figure it out on your own.

It would take a pretty long write-up to answer your situation, so I think youre better off to read as much as possible.


Wow the protein for energy thing is pretty new to me. I would go ahead and tell your friend who obviously doesn't lift that he's a twit,a moron and a complete dolt and not to give out advice like this any more.

By the fact that your using the term "supplementation" when talking about protein,I can only assume you mean Meal Replacement Protein shakes such as Grow, Metabolic Drive or something of that ilk.The thing is that to build a great physique you need protein. Not just from protein shakes but primarly whole food sources,such as chicken,beef and fish. How much protein is often debated but because your cutting I would start out at around 1 - 1.5g per pound of bodyweight. I would aim for around 275-300g a day at this point.As far as meal replacement protein products go they are great for convience I think a product like Metabolic Drive is great before bed but make sure your getting your whole food sources.

There's alot more to be said on this,but I'm afraid I'll confuse you even more so I'll leave further explanation to someone more experienced that can explain jit better than myself. Here's another good article about protein.



Depends. Protein shakes won't directly help you lose fat. They may aid in fat loss indirectly by allowing you to feel more satiated via increased protein consumption or by increasing thermogenesis. I speculate that the effect won't be significant though. Hard work and a holistic approach to diet is key.

Although many believe this, I disagree. Building muscle is a function of caloric surplus (about 2500kcal per pound of muscle, I beleive) and hard training. I gained a significant amount of muscle without using protein powders at all. I also consumed below 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, which is a common recommendation. As for losing weight, that is also a function of kcalories, but like I mentioned above, increased protein consumption can contribute to a kcalorie deficit.

If consuming protein shakes adds to your total kcaloric intake beyond what you need, then, yes, you will not lose weight.

Not true. Within the first few days of fasting, lean body tissue is preferentially broken down for glucose synthesis. After about ten days or so, the preference shifts to fat breakdown to conserve lean tissue, but some is still broken down, just in a smaller proportion.


In a nutshell....protein shakes are useful in fat loss for the following reasons: (1) they make it easier to keep track of your calories because you can figure out exactly how many you are consuming with any particular shake; (2) they are easy and convenient, and therefore make it easier to rely upon them; (3) protein is more filling, and will make you feel more satiated until you get use to restricted calories; (4) protein is thermogenic -- e.g., you burn more calories digesting it than other macronutrients; and (5) you can make sure you are consuming quality food, including quality carbs or fat.


Also, regarding cardio, take a look at the Cardio Round Table articles in the archives. The common wisdom around here is that intense intervals are best for developing VO max and in fat loss -- both laudible goals. Alot of folks rely upon sprints, drags, and carries.

I recently tried Alwyn Cosgrove's "complex" and it kicked my ass. It was in his recent article, and the following quotes it:

"Perform the following complex. (A complex is literally a giant set where you don't put the bar down between exercises.)

Romanian Deadlift
Bentover Row
Power Clean
Front Squat
Push Press
Back Squat
Good Morning

Here's where we get nasty:

Perform 6 reps of each (48 total reps). It should take about 60 seconds. Rest 90 seconds, then perform 5 reps of each; rest 90 seconds, 4 reps of each; rest 90 seconds, 3 reps of each; rest 90 seconds, 2 reps of each; rest 90 seconds, and then do 1 rep of each.

The entire workout should take about 12 minutes, not counting the time you spend sobbing like a little girl in a frilly dress."


Great post, Scotty. One other thing to add: (6) Consuming them makes it easier to eat more often (traditionally 5-7 times per day), which lets you:

A) Get away with eating fewer calories per meal while still staying satisfied

B) keep the metabolism revved up because you are constantly digesting food and not slipping into a fasted (read: fat storing) state.

In fact, many diet articles recommend increasing your protein intake during times of calorie restriction because of these very reasons.

Dan "Protein is good. Keep eating it." McVicker


Well my brother is in med school. He says that the body uses first atp and blah bla bla (his lips kept moving) anyways he says that the body uses all different sorts of energy, it does not only prefers one over another per say. Of course for short term exercise ATP and then glycogen is used, but fat is used on a daily basis also as well as glucose.

There is no magix formula that says that will make you only lose fat, sometimes people with weight problems have a deficience of their bodies to get rid of the fat consumed if that is the your case thn a low fat diet helps more. If you exercise frequently and hard you will find easier to llose weight and won;t matter wheter you take protein or not (unless you exceed your optimum calorie intake per day).

So drinking protein shakes won't stop you from losing fat unless your protein shake contains eggs, bananas, peanut butter, ice cream, and that is combine with 3 good size meals a day. Get your weight and multiply it times 12 and that should be around the calories per day you should be eating. That plus exercise should get you losing weight in no time.

I recommend having a gym workout 4 times a week and the rest of the days pure cardio (running in the morning, then cardio sets one set of 30 min then another of 20).

My cardio works like this 10 min shadow boxing with kneeing, kicking, combinations, sprawling, bicep exercises, neck, grappling. After the 40 minutes it's all i got i feel ready to fall down and die, then some nice drinks to recover all the water, i use Hydro-pro (it's ok), rest 10 min and then go for the last 20 min. My cardio is sort of heavy but it's short, intense and worth it.

and that was my 2 cents.


Someone who doesn't understand that protein shakes won't MAKE you lose fat should probably avoid using it as a supplement until they understand that their diet and exercise are what causes any progress they make. Too many people here forget why they are called SUPPLEMENTS.


Thanks for the response guys!

He did mention that ALL food is ultimately broken down to glycogen and used for cellular "food". So, if I fed my body "large" amounts of proteins. Then my body would feed itself out of the protein alone and not use any fat. The fat would be kept stored. In fact he mentioned that a person should only eat about 3 to 4 grams of protein a day (not 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight like I usually read on most articles and posts here.)

Don't get me wrong! He's a nice guy and means well. I'm not looking for info. To the go and bash him on the head with it later, but I do want to get the "right" info.

In the end, I believe I got the protein part down now (I'm using Surge and Metabolic Drive BTW).

It's the "catabolic" issue I'm not 100% clear. I'll research it more.


The problem is that the body is VERY complex and does all sorts of things in response to various situations.

If you deprive the body of food in an attempt to lose weight, it will detect a starvation condition and shut down all kinds of processes that consume extra energy. Oh, little things like your immune system and sex drive, for example.

One factor in favor of protein consumption, assuming it is replacing other calories, is the fact that it creates a larger thermic effect during digestion. This means more energy is used to digest it than other foods.

Anyway, as others have said, there is all kinds of information on this topic on the site. Start with the 7 habits of effective nutrtition. While you are trying to live those, spend a couple weeks reading up on the rest of the nutrition articles.


Not all food is broken down into glycogen. Fiber, for examplpe, isn't broken down at all.

Wrong again. Protein is not used for fuel, or at least not directly.

3-4 grams total??? WTF is that? That would be one bite of chicken, or one sip from a protein shake. I don't think it's humanly possible to go through an entire day and only eat 3-4 grams of protein, unless you don't eat anything at all. Your friend, whoever he is, needs a reality check.


Woah just saw this part.

It's really easy guy. Your body hates muscle. It's hard for it to maintain it. The term "metabolically active" comes to mind. Fat is easy to maintain, it requires very little. Adequate protein intake is necessary for maintaining your lean tissue. Your body will attack the muscle first under most circumstances.

You and your friend have a lot of reading to do. Also, just because he is studying to be a physicians assistant doesn't mean he knows anything. He's just an assistant for a reason.


Holy crap! Are you sure you didn't hear him incorrectly? Are you sure he meant grams, not servings?


It almost has to be...If thats the case you would almost have to vegetarian and even then....


Probably meant ounces, in which case his medically correct friend would be referring to the RDA for protein.

My recommendation to you is to use common sense and not make a big deal out your diet in terms of macros and energy systems.

How about this:
Breakfast: big bowl of oatmeal and blueberriesn, chased down with a big glass of OJ, followed by a bagel and peanut butter

Mid morning: big bowl of cottage cheese and mixed fruit or a good energy bar

Lunch: go to subway and have a roasted chicken sub with lettuce, tomato, green pepper, cucumbers with light sauce on wheat, or something like it,

Mid afternoon: apple, banana, big serving of yogurt

Supper: good serving of chicken, steamed or raw veggies, salad with olive oil

Before bed snack: more cottage cheese or a bowl of whole grain cereal

Through in 4-6 litres of water and sub in some shakes for snacks.

Continue your current exercise program. See how it goes.

If you are losing weight but not much muscle mass, great. If not, cut back on some cals. If you are losing fat and too much muscle mass, eat more.

Remember, you want to maintain energy and muscle mass (even see an increase in mass) while at the same time burn fat. In order to do this, you have to create a caloric deficit of about 500 kcals per day.

Keep us posted.