PROTEIN DAYS: When, Why, How???
Facebook tends to drive the question about when, why and how one does a “protein day.” Our answer is always the same. Protein days should be determined between the practitioner and patient and dependent on several factors: health history, current symptoms, at what point are you in your SHAPE journey and most importantly, what are the metabolic markers from the UA that are pointing to the decision that a “protein day” is the best decision.
All too often, when a patient runs up against weight loss slowing down, they instantly panic and think they should do a “protein day.” This is not the case. Please understand, it took months and even years to gain the excess weight you are lugging around. Logic dictates you won’t lose it ALL in a few weeks or even months, depending on how overweight you’ve become.
There are times “protein days” are recommended, but mainly once a patient transitions to Phase II. As one begins to add foods back into their diet that had been eliminated during Phase I, the body begins adjusting and letting the patient know if that food works or not. If the patient experiences an inflammatory reaction, such as gas/bloating, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, etc., the body is expressing its dissatisfaction. Should you gain more than two pounds overnight, the body is expressing its dissatisfaction. Either the food caused the inflammatory reaction of weight gain or the patient simply ate more than necessary to sustain metabolic function and instead shifted to storage. This is a recipe for gaining the weight back. Phase II and III are critical to learning what foods work and what doesn’t in order to maintain healthy weight.
There are times a practitioner will choose a “protein day” in Phase I should a patient, who has been doing the program for a longer period of time, stop losing weight. That does not mean the “protein day” is the answer but rather a place to start to see if it might kick-start and force a higher level of ketosis. We do not believe it is appropriate for any patient to do a “protein day” early in their SHAPE journey. There are simply too many metabolic changes occurring and the patient needs to stick to the protocol as laid out in the guidebook. The body simply needs time to adjust to all the changes that are taking place metabolically. Even though the scale may not show a loss, day in day out, many positive changes are occurring within.
That brings us to discussing ketones in the urine. We teach our practitioners the following rule of thumb:
- 1. If a patient is NOT spilling ketones and still losing weight, that is fine. Not everyone will spill ketones yet will lose weight. This is their metabolic personality.
- 2. If a patient is NOT spilling ketones and NOT losing weight, most likely, the patient is cheating…knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe they are eating something or using a personal care product that has hidden sugar, oil, excess fat, etc.
- 3. Practitioners are monitoring a whole list of metabolic markers beyond ketones and are watching for starvation markers. Should they see any combination of markers, they will adjust the diet accordingly.
- 4. Some practitioners will increase protein and decrease carbohydrates to try and force a higher level of ketosis. This must be monitored closely as large ketosis is a sign of starvation and will render the program less effective.
SHAPE Central trains our practitioners to look at the full spectrum of metabolic dysfunction for reasons a patient might run into challenges during the program.
- 1. UA
- 2. Adrenal
- 3. Brain
- 4. Liver, digestion
- 5. Inflammation
- 6. Immune
- 7. Hormone
- 8. Insulin
- 9. Leaky gut/Mal-absorption
- 10. Thyroid
- 11. Leptin
- 12. Enzymes
We are strictly practitioner-monitored because we care about long-term success with our program. Our greatest success is with patients who work closely with their practitioner into Phase III and maintain a periodic follow-up to ensure the patient is not falling back into old habits, gaining weight and experiencing inflammatory symptoms.
“Protein days” are recommended based on the metabolic reasons explained above and should not be done “whenever” one decides they are not losing weight consistently or fast enough.
MEASURING AND WEIGHING PROTEIN
There continues to be a debate amongst practitioners and SHAPE WARRIORS alike as to how does one measure and weigh protein. We initially recommended measuring by grams and that really messed with people’s understanding. We switched to ounces, believing that would be more universal. However, it does get confusing when one compares cups to ounces to grams.
Rule of thumb: An ounce is an ounce is an ounce.
Not all sources of protein are simply protein. When we mention “protein” we are referring to fish, fowl and beef when we refer to “protein days.” Understanding that fish, fowl and beef are pure protein while yogurt and cottage cheese have protein but both also have carbohydrates (from lactose).
For the vegetarian, SHAPE’s program is a bit more challenging as their protein choices are limited. Because they are not consuming meat, their intake of yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu and possibly eggs may need to exceed the minimum of 8 oz of protein per day. We recommend doubling the quantity if you use this as a main protein source. We recommend a serving size (4 oz) when choosing yogurt or cottage cheese to be 8 oz/1 cup to sustain them between meals. Also, one egg = 2 oz.
It is our clinical experience that vegetarians must increase their protein intake or they will be starving. In fact, it is very challenging for the vegetarian to do this program with so few choices. We find many vegetarians do best if they bend a bit to include fish. Some even decide they feel better eating animal protein.
Please refer to the examples below:
Serving Size Beef 4 oz Yogurt 4 oz Cottage Cheese 4 oz
Calories 190 60 90
Fat 11 g 0 g 2.5 g
Sugar 0 g 4.5 g 4 g
Protein 21 g 11.5 g 14 g
As you can see, beef brings the highest protein content as well as calories and fat. However, please note, there are no carbohydrates (sugar) naturally occurring in its chemical makeup.
The question of weighing before or after cooking comes up all the time on Facebook as well as with every practitioner. Our guideline is cut off the fat before cooking and don’t panic if you are not exactly on the mark. An extra ounce of protein is not going to derail anyone. Please remember the guidelines in FasTrac are the bare minimum one should eat in a day. Most will be eating more depending on their total health profile, symptoms, UA markers and adjusted accordingly by your practitioner.
In general, beef, fowl and fish shrink about 20-25% when cooked. Therefore, a 4 oz skinless, boneless chicken breast will yield approximately 3 oz of cooked meat. All meat will shrink in size and weight during cooking. The amount of shrinkage will depend on its fat and moisture content, the temperature at which the meat is cooked and how long it is cooked. Basically, the higher the cooking temperature, the greater the shrinkage. Our recommendation is to cut off the fat before cooking, measure, and don’t worry beyond that.
Folks, measuring is all about chemistry. For instance, a professional baker will always measure flour and sugar using a scale rather than just a measuring cup (check out any European recipe book or cooking show), because 2 different cups of flour, depending on how densely it’s packed, may weigh two different amounts. This may sound silly and unnecessary, but accuracy is incredibly important in chemistry (which is what cooking really is!).
We at SHAPE Central would like folks to follow the recommendations below:
- 1. Measure yogurt and cottage cheese (liquid proteins) by volume by using a measuring cup or spoon.
- 2. Measure fish, fowl or beef by weight using a scale.
- 3. 1 egg = 2 oz serving.
- 4. Measure veggies by cup and don’t freak about exact measure as veggies are never going to derail your success unless you have a sensitivity/allergy to a specific type.
- 5. If you are using a little bit of yogurt or cottage cheese to make a salad dressing, use it sparingly and don’t worry about counting it towards your total protein intake for the day.
Some folks prefer measuring everything with their scale (weight.) Some by volume as in fl oz, cup, etc. Some people will feel comfortable eyeballing it by measuring their fish, fowl and beef by the palm of their hand.
For heaven’s sake, relax and don’t freak out about this. Use the guidelines above and you will succeed.