Burn Fat, Build Muscle & Age Powerfully By Optimizing Protein

What you eat and how much you eat matters, but so does where you start. In this episode, JJ explains why you want to focus every meal on protein. You’ll learn exactly why this macronutrient is a great metabolism booster for weight loss, the critical study that showed your metabolism doesn’t slow down as you get older, how muscle loss impacts quality of life, and why the wrong kind of exercise can work against you. Plus, JJ reveals how high protein meals can keep you full longer, why you burn more calories eating protein than carbs or fat, how much protein you need daily, the best plant-based protein sources for vegans and vegetarians, and how to build your plate around protein. With these strategies, you’ll optimize every meal to stay strong, lose weight, prevent muscle loss, and look and feel your best.

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 464_YT 32
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Thanks so much for joining me. This is ask the health expert. In each episode, I put the power of health in your hands and share ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox and lots more. So you can look and feel better fast if you'd rather watch the video. Hey, I did put on my makeup and do my hair.
So check it out on my YouTube channel.
Most people look at a plate as nothing more than a place to put food, but it's so much more than that. And it's really an amazing tool. One of the most important ones you have to help you get healthy in fact, but to use it right, and to make it a huge needle mover for your weight and your. There's one thing you should always do first.
Hey, it's JJ. This [00:01:00] channel is all about you and ways to help you get and stay healthy. So like, and subscribe, and we'll travel on this journey together. So obviously when you're building your plate, what you put on it and how much matters. But where you start matters too, in fact, where you start matters most because it can have a serious impact on your waistline and for your energy and how well you age.
So you wanna start first with protein when you start with protein and make sure it's the first thing on your mind. And on your plate, some amazing things happen and I'm gonna go through each of them. So let's start with a quick refresher. Proteins are made of amino acids. Amino acids are what you need to keep your body running.
There's sometimes even precursors to hormones. You need protein to repair your body, and it also helps you build muscle, which. Mission critical for your metabolism. Now, most people believe that your metabolism slows down as you age, [00:02:00] and that's one of the major reasons that you gain weight as you age. But guess what?
There was a study in 2021 using data from more than 6,400 people across 29 countries that showed your metabolism. Doesn't really drop between the ages of 20 and 60. Now you may feel like it. But it doesn't, there's something else causing weight gain as we age. It's not just one thing what's really happening is a whole toxic soup of things.
We have more disrupted sleep, hormonal changes, age related, muscle loss. And on top of that, we just start moving less right now. If you remember what you learned in physics now I know it was a while ago, it's that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest when you're not.
You're not building muscle. That loss of muscle is called sarcopenia and it hits our bodies [00:03:00] hard between age 30 and 60. We lose three to 8% of muscle mass each decade. And by the way, after 60, it just speeds up. And of course, that loss can lead to functional decline and increase the risk of disability in fractures.
Basically, it just makes you frail. And that means that everything you do. Well, it's just harder to do. It's harder to lift those groceries. It's harder going upstairs. It's harder going downstairs. It's harder opening jars, all of these normal things that we take for granted that we can do with ease. They just get gradually harder.
And you know, when they get gradually harder, you're not even aware. Plus muscle burns more calories than fat. So losing muscle causes us to burn fewer calories. And if we're burning fewer calories and keeping everything the same, we're gaining fat. And by the way, you can't just cut calories to fix.
Because when you do that, [00:04:00] that makes your body go into the starvation mode that slows down your metabolism to compensate. And it can also make you catabolic where you lose more muscle and you'll start to gain even more fat. And remember too talking catabolic, if you're under any stress at all and who the heck isn't.
Or you're catabolic from other things which can happen. Like if you're over training or injured, especially if you're doing loads of cardio, like running and cycling, cuz you're trying to lose weight. You can forget about even maintaining muscle. You're actually breaking down muscle. Now, if you drop weight quickly and you're not getting enough protein, then the weight you're losing is likely muscle little fat.
But likely more muscle and losing muscle works against you in so many ways, including for additional weight loss, because you need muscle revving your metabolism and improving your insulin sensitivity. For that, I call [00:05:00] muscles are metabolic spans because they hold everything in tighter. While burning more calories and they make us look better.
So let's not forget that either. Right? So with that said, the goal is to have a healthy, stable weight without sacrificing your muscle and bone health. and nutritionally what you need to make sure that happens. Well, you gotta have protein. So we're gonna put protein first, literally and figuratively. As far as macros go protein, fat and carbs.
Protein is number one. You know, we can live without carbs, so they bring up the rear, but we can't live without protein or without fat or without water. So when you're building your plate, you wanna prioritize protein and then build everything else. If weight loss is your goal, protein helps in a couple of different ways.
First it can help with satiety. It's better at signaling that you're full and satisfied than either fat or carbs are studies show that gives you [00:06:00] that feeling of full in a single meal and more fullness over a 24 hour period. So eating more protein helps you control. And another way it helps with weight loss is that it's more thermic your body actually burns calories as it breaks down food in a process called thermogenesis and it burns the most calories breaking down protein.
So when you're digesting protein, you're given your metabolism a little boost too. So how much protein is enough. And is there a thing as too much? Well, yes. And yes. Although I will tell you, I think protein's gotten a really bad rap and people are afraid of protein when they really should be afraid of all of those dirty ultra processed refined carbs.
Okay. Said my piece, let's go back to protein, the floor. That's the minimum amount that you should be getting is one gram per pound of ideal lean body mass. Every day. [00:07:00] I'll talk about what that is in a moment. And then the ceiling is 1.5 grams per pound of ideal body weight. That's not just your lean body mass.
Okay. So what is lean body mass anyway? So your body is made up of two things. Fat and everything else and everything else is called lean body mass. Now, if you are a woman, you want your body fat range to be in the 18 to 25% range of your total weight. And really I'd love to see it more in the 18 to 22% range.
If you're athletic as a female, it's gonna be more in the 15 to 20% range for men. your body fat should be somewhere in the 10 to 18% range of your total weight. And if you're athletic five to 15%, especially if you're a super athlete, now you might wanna go to that ceiling of 1.5 grams per pound of ideal body weight.
If the demands on your body are high, like if you're under stress, [00:08:00] if you're trying to put on muscle, if you're injured or you're ill, but if none of that is the case, then you're probably fine doing about one gram. Per pound of lean body mass or one gram per pound of. Body weight. Okay. So you don't need to go crazy here, but honestly, I find most people are not getting enough protein in, so you're gonna figure out how much protein you should be getting by first measuring your body mass.
And the best way to do that is with a body composition scale. So, if you don't have one of those, I highly recommend that you get one, it's an awesome tool. And it does all of these calculations for you besides the fact it is so cool to see your progress in these numbers right in front of your eyes. Now, my favorite, one of all is a segmental scale because first of all, when you're looking at a body composition scale, it's not just what you.
It's what that weight is made up of. Right? And that's where the body composition scale is gonna help you segment that. But a [00:09:00] segmental scale takes it a step further where it shows you actually how much fat is on your arms, your legs, your trunk. It's a super important because visceral adiposity that belly fat is the worst fat at all.
So we wanna make sure that as you're losing. You're losing fat, you're building muscle and you're losing your waist. Two brands that I really love in body and Tanita. Now, beyond that, I also wanna make sure you're doing a waste and hip measurement weekly, because again, that's another way to look at that visceral fat, because this is the fat that's creating the problems.
It's more inflammatory, right? If you're losing weight, you're not losing your waist, you're making yourself worse. Not better. Okay, let's go back to protein. So you start with counting protein grams. Now, you know how to look at this for yourself. So if you're eating animal protein, the good news is it's gonna give you all of the essential, amino acid, your body needs, but remember you are what you eat eight.
[00:10:00] Meaning, it's not just you eating that cow or that chicken. It's what that cow or chicken was fed. So you've gotta choose wisely. Factory cows, factory chickens are junk food. It's it's like eating Twinkis. You gotta choose pastured beef, not corn-fed cows. I want you to think of corn fed cows is like the white bread of beef.
All right. Wild salmon, rather than farm raised. Again. I want you to think of farm raised salmon, like the Twinkies of the fish family. How's that for a visual. Okay. So again, you don't wanna do the factory styled animals. This is junk food because when you, they do this, they shift their fatty acid profile into a pro-inflammatory.
Now when you're eating animal protein, you're also likely gonna get a little bit of fat with it. Most of the animal protein is seven grams per ounce of protein. If you're eating a fattier cut like wild salmon, it might be a little bit lower in protein, higher and [00:11:00] fat. If you're eating leaner like Turkey or chicken, it'll be a little higher in protein, lower and fat.
If you're eating foods, like say maybe a fatty ribeye, grass fed and finished or wild salmon, you're gonna count those fat servings in with your protein. Right. And again, remember if you're eating shellfish chicken, breast Turkey, there's not much to count. The fat's really gonna be pretty negligible there.
And in general, You don't wanna go too heavy on like one massive single animal protein. You really want to rotate your diet by the way, this counts for everything important things to think about in your diet is rotating. Eating different types of things. Right? So getting that variety, eating seasonal, eating local whenever possible and eating organic, super important.
So we're gonna rotate the grass fed beef and bison lamb with pastured chicken or Turkey or wild fish. Okay. Next step. So we start there, we get the grams we need there. We count if we have some extra fats in it, next [00:12:00] thing you're gonna do is eat your vegetables. Research shows that people will eat more, produce, tend to have more muscle mass as they age.
So that's good news for you if you're a plant based eater, but you probably know, you really have to focus on getting enough protein. If you're a plant based eater without overdoing the fatter carbs. For example, if you are relying on beans and lentils and seeds and nuts and things like. well with the beans and lentils in quinoa, you're getting a load of carbs.
You are going to get six cups of quinoa to get the, the protein in a chicken breast. That's way more carbs than you should have. Right? So nuts and seeds, same thing. You're gonna get protein along with a lot of fat. So the common ground is that no matter what, you're eating, no matter what you're eating preferences, you gotta make sure you're getting enough protein at every.
And again, if you are doing, if you are a plant based eater, we also need to make sure you're getting a complete amino [00:13:00] acid profile. That's why I love to make sure you start the morning with a loaded smoothie. So whenever you're breaking your fast, maybe it's 9:00 AM. Maybe it's noon. I like you to break your fast with a loaded smoothie.
And here's why I know that I can get in some clean, very bioavailable protein and my protein powders I use either a bone broth concentrate with extra added in branch chain, amino acids, and collagen, or I use a plant based protein with both of those. I actually add in extra collagen and then. I will also use a special flax milk with extra protein in it.
So I'm hitting my morning smoothies that I'm doing sometime between nine 30 and 11. And I'm getting anywhere from 40 to 50 grams of protein right there. Now, the other reason this is really important is now I've got my protein. I've got my healthy fats and fiber. Again, I've got a satiety trifecta right there on good blood sugar bounce.
So for the other meals, you're gonna always [00:14:00] build your plate around the protein. Remember, let's say we're starting with salmon. You're gonna count the fat that comes with it. Like we talked about, then you also have to think about the carbs. So what does that look like? Well, the next thing you're gonna do.
And I don't even like to think of non searchy vegetables as carbs, because I want you eating as many of those as you can, five to 10 servings a day is the baseline. Remember half a cup cooked a cup of raw. So I now want you to add in your non-starchy vegetables and this is where it can get a little nuanced, because most likely I'm bettin' that you might be using a little.
in your non searchy vegetables. Like last night I had broccoli and I put grass fed ghee on it, had a salad. I did a little olive oil. So those count in, right. So think about it. You wanna get between two to four servings of fat. So depending on what your protein source is and what you did with your veggies, you may not need to add any fat past that.
Right? [00:15:00] So protein. Non-starchy veggies, more fat. If you need it, you probably don't. And then you can decide if you wanna have up to two servings of what I call slow, low carbs, and zero is fine too. I actually don't do much in the way of slow, low carbs things like berries squashes, wild rice, legumes, I don't do much of that during the day.
I have it for my evening meal because it helps me. So you're gonna adjust your fat and carbs depending on your goal. If you're trying to lose weight, you might find that you do better with two to three servings of fat, not four. And, and keeping that slow, low carb just for one or two at your evening meal, right?
If you're trying to stabilize your blood sugar, maybe you bring your fat up a little bit, lower your carbs down. If you're working out heavy or you're under stress. Or you've got some, yeah, good adrenal stuff going on or bad adrenal stuff going on. Rather you might need a little bit more carbs. You might need some slow low carbs at each meal.
And again, remember little bit of carbs at night, little bit of the slow carbs, maybe a little wild rice. Maybe some [00:16:00] lentils can be great for helping you sleep better. Just make sure that you have that meal earlier in the evening. Right. And keeping those carbs lower in the morning. Can help make sure you don't activate that second meal phenomenon.
You don't want to do that. It is miserable. There's nothing like starting off the day and going, oh boy. Now I've just set myself up to fail the whole day long. So let's make sure we start the day. Well, so you start with protein, then you support it with good choices on the rest of your plate. And when you do the healthy fats and slow, low carbs and non-starchy vegetables, remember that's the fat fiber protein trifecta.
And it's gonna help you feel fuller longer. It's gonna slow stomach empty. It's gonna keep blood sugar bounce and that can help you lose weight too. Besides all of that is gonna help you fight inflammation, which can cause you to lose muscle and gain fat. I think what people don't realize is inflammation is its own risk factor for obesity.
So [00:17:00] let me give you a couple examples of how you can do this. So you see how easy it. All right. First off is someone who like me eats everything, right? The loaded smoothie that I make, I use two scoops of my reignite night wellness, paleo protein powder. I use an extra scoop of my whole body collagen. And then I use two tablespoons right now.
I'm doing some extra flaxseed. I'm doing some big hormone balancing smoothies right now. I use a flaxseed milk with protein added. I use some extra fiber and a little bit of a green banana. I'm getting over 40 servings right there of protein. I'm getting my healthy fat in there from the flax and flax seeds.
And I get, I have one carbohydrate serving, not even quite that with that green. Here's another meal. It can be six to eight ounces of wild salmon, depending on your size. For me, it's eight ounces, a cup of broccoli with ghee. So I got some wild salmon. I got some healthy fats. I got some healthy fats in the broccoli with ghee.
I probably push that up to even two [00:18:00] cups of broccoli with ghee and then a little bit of wild rice. If it's my evening meal, half a cup and maybe some. Little extra Virgin olive oil and vinegar. And I always love to do that. Cuz that vinegar acts like an insulin sensitizer so you see how easy that is? 40 to 50 grams of protein right there.
Four fat grams, one slow carb. Four plus veggie servings, cuz I had a salad and broccoli. And again, if I pushed that to two cups of broccoli, I got four servings of veggies right there. If I did a big salad, say two cups, I got two more servings. See how easy that is to do. All right. Plant based. Let's talk this.
So again, One of the things I see with plant-based eating is that it can be challenging to get enough of your, of your protein and also to get enough leucine. So I want you to be aware of that so that you can add to it, making your shake. I really love to. Use I'll use my plant based protein powder. I'll use my flaxseed milk with some pea protein in it.
So right there, I'm gonna get at [00:19:00] least 30 grams. Plus I'm gonna do some chia seeds in there. Two tablespoons got some more protein in that. So you see how easy that is. And some blueberries, maybe some greens right there. I've got a slow, low carb. I've got some non-starchy vegetables. I've got at least 35 grams of protein.
If you'll do a little collagen, you can add some in makes it even better. And my healthy fats. So see how easy that was. Two healthy fats right there. Now let's talk about a. And you're gonna see how this goes and I'll show you one of my hacks that I do here in order to get the protein up. So let's say for this meal, I'm gonna do a half a cup lentils and a half a cup of quinoa.
That by the way, are two slow, low carb servings right there. And that's the max I really recommend for a meal. Right there. So half cup lentils, half cup of quinoa. And I'm gonna add to that one and a half ounces of chopped walnuts and two teaspoons of nutritional yeast. Now see if you can handle that. I personally can't use nutritional yeast, but it's a great way to get your protein up, cuz I'm adding [00:20:00] eight grams right there and then a cup or more of roasted brussel sprouts with coconut.
So right there, I'm getting four fat, two starchy carbs. At least two servings of non-starchy vegetables. Maybe a little more. Maybe I can add some more mushrooms in here as well. But I got 34 grams of protein and that was really the most I could get without exceeding my fat and carbs. So one of the things that you can do to help boost your protein levels is start to use an unsweetened protein powder.
And I'll give you a little bit of a hint I'm playing around with this right now, so that I can show you different ways. You can put this into sauces and sneak it in, right? So you can get that protein that you need now. The other challenge we have as we age is that over the age of 30, 35, our digestive enzymes, well, guess what they tend to decrease, but despite that we should be increasing the amount of protein we get to combat muscle mass.
So you wanna eat your protein, every meal, but you also wanna make [00:21:00] sure that you do it with digestive enzymes so that you can actually digest. And use it makes sense. Right? So you wanna keep that protein up because we age we tend to become, what's called anabolic resistant. We tend to have a harder time building muscle.
I think some of that might be because first of all, we're not using our muscles enough, but second one might be because the enzymes, so don't cut the protein. Add digestive enzymes to make sure that the protein you're eating is actually getting metabolized and utilized. Now, I really like Betaine HCL, and then enzymes that are specifically designed to break down the more common high-fi proteins, including dairy, gluten, and soy.
That's what I use through reignite wellness. The other thing you wanna pay attention to is not just increasing your protein as you age. But pairing it with other nutrient rich foods each time you eat. So in other words, you're eating by the plate at every meal. So you're gonna make sure you have your protein as [00:22:00] well as the right portions of non-starchy veggies, healthy fats, and then maybe some slow, low carbs.
The idea behind having protein in these other nutrient dense foods at every meal is similar to making the case for digestive. That our bodies have difficulty absorbing these nutrients as we get older. So we need to keep up a steady supply. Plus protein at every meal helps eliminate cravings and eliminate hunger.
And that means you're not gonna wanna snack. Now, if you absolutely have to have a snack, try drinking some water, mineral water, ice cream tea first, but if you absolutely have to think of it as a mini meal and follow the same rules, and then finally. Move movement in general is great to help fight inflammation and burn some calories.
Moving activates, something called neat, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. And it's the energy you burn during everything except [00:23:00] real exercise or sports. Now, if you've heard of the blue zones, you know, that people living in those places are active and lean way into their senior years often pass 100.
They're doing the smaller things that constantly keep them moving all throughout the day. They're taking the stairs, they're walking the Hills they're even fidgeting it all counts. So get yourself moving, do the neat. But you also wanna add in resistance training to put your protein to work and actually build muscle.
You've got to give yourself the building blocks, but then you gotta do something with it. Right? Resistance training of all exercise is gonna give you the best return on investment. Now I've been doing resistance training literally since I was in my teens and my high school gym with all the football players.
And I can tell you that resistance training is the best exercise for muscle building and. And more importantly, to give you all of the benefits of lean muscle, like balanced blood sugar, fat burning, [00:24:00] and healthy aging. You see, you don't wanna age gracefully, you wanna age power. And by the way, you don't even need weights
if you don't have them, you can use your own body weight. You can do yoga, you can do Pilates. It just has to be hard for you. You have to resist. It has to be challenging, right? So to keep yourself strong and prevent all the decline that comes with losing muscles at muscle, as you age, you gotta work it.
And it's never too late to start because as you get into midlife and beyond, it becomes more and more and more important. So check out my video on resistance training for some easy ways to get started. It works for me and everyone. I know, and I know it will work for you. So here's to aging. Well here's to aging powerfully and staying healthy for a.
Long long time. Now don't forget to like, and subscribe and leave your thoughts so I can make some future videos addressing what you'd like to know most about and [00:25:00] be sure to check out my video on three things you should absolutely be tracking to upgrade your health. See you soon
for more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review find me on Instagram, Facebook and my website, JJvirgin.com. And don't forget to subscribe to my show. So you won't miss a single episode. Go to subscribetojj.com. Thanks again for being with me this week.


Hide Transcript