Let's talk about PROTEIN!
Some Benefits ::
- Increase & Maintains lean muscle tissue
- Strengthens immune system
- Faster recovery from workouts
- Helps in weight (fat) loss
- Enhances energy
- Highly nutritious
Protein molecules take longer to digest. Meaning, you’re likely to feel hungry as soon as you might with more carb-dense meals. The simple reason for this: Protein takes longer to digest & uses more energy in the body to break it down. The slower digestion is also important because it keeps your blood sugar from spiking causing a release of insulin. (*Insulin signals surplus sugars &glycolic fat storage) so you want to stick to food options that digest slowly. For an even higher metabolic effect, the majority of protein consumption should be in the form of whole food sources rather than shakes.
Animal protein and vegetable protein probably have the same effects on your cellular health. It's the protein package that's likely to make a difference on your overall fitness. 6oz of Steak has 38g of protein. But also couples that with a WALLOPING 44g of fat (16g saturated! < ¾ of your RDI!) The same amount of Wild Salmon hold less protein 34g BUT only 18g of fat (*with only 4g sat-fat) and compare THAT to 1cup (8oz) of cooked lentils with “only” 18g of protein but less than a gram of fat, all unsaturated.
Complete vs. Incomplete Protein
Some of the protein you eat contains all the amino acids needed to build new proteins. This kind is called complete protein. Animal sources of protein tend to be complete. Other protein sources lack one or more "essential" amino acids—that is, amino acids that the body can't make from scratch or create by modifying another amino acid. Called incomplete proteins, these typically come from plant sources. (*except Quinoa & Soy)
NB -Vegetarians need to be aware of this. To get all the amino acids needed to make new protein – and thus to keep the body's systems in good shape – people should eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day.
Best Sources ::
Grass-fed Beef, Organic Poultry, Farm raised pork, Wild-caught fish (salmon, tuna, mahi-mahi). DHA-enhanced eggs, Fat Free Organic Kefir or Greek yogurt (plain is best).
When choosing animal proteins, go with the leanest cuts of red meat & pork and check out alternative meats, like Goat & Bison, which tend to be leaner. White meat poultry (chicken, turkey, Ostrich) Omega rich Wild Salmon, tuna, & tilapia and cod with Lower caloric counts. And try game fish like shark, swordfish, Mahi-mahi. These are great amino sources.
NB - I tend to advise people to limit / avoid dairy outside of yogurt – as much as i LOVE ice cream & cheese, I limit them due to their additional calories and mucous-forming in our bodies. If you are going to eat cheese, stick to the least processed cow-alternative cheeses Buffalo mozzarella / goat cheese or choose aged-drier cheeses, since you will eat less, because they are richer in taste.
Quinoa is a grain with so high a protein count, the body processes it primarily as a protein (instead of a carb). It is also gluten-free. Oatmeal is also a good protein source, but has gluten. Beans & Lentils, are GREAT clean proteins when as eaten close to whole as possible. Plus they’re a fab fibre source. Nuts are also a fibre-rich protein source Aim for almonds and almond butter, Walnuts, pecans and Pistachios over peanuts (*they can be mucous forming)
Tempeh (*fermented, whole bean & un-processed soy) is your best bet with complete plant-based soy proteins.
Solid Tofu, and other soy-based protein sources tend to be extremely processed and reconstituted. There is also some studies claiming that they are estrogenic & can be harming to the thyroid. They also contain high levels of phytic acid blocks the absorption of essential minerals in the digestive tract, putting vegetarians who eat soya as the major source of protein in their diet at severe risk of mineral deficiencies, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and especially zinc. Also, be advised: gluten-based replacements tend to have higher sodium AND can have adverse reactions, as a lot of people are unknowingly gluten-sensitive.
FYI – a study in the New Engl Journal of Medicine^ showed that eating more vegetable protein, while cutting simple carbs may benefit the heart. A 20-year prospective study of 82,802 women found that those who ate low-carb diets, high in vegetable sources of fat/protein had a 30% lower risk of heart disease, vs. women who ate high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets
Common Questions ::
How much is “the right amount” of protein?
Most people take in too LITTLE protein in their daily diet intake to be concerned with this. Most Americans only take in 1/3 – 1/2 of their RDI. Proteins should consist of about 40% of your daily caloric intake, another 40% being mostly complex carbs and the other 20% being good fats.
Muscle is made mainly of the proteins myosin, actin and tropomyosin. you need at least 80g of protein per day; more if you are training intensively (some is needed just to replace the myosin fibres broken down by the training. Bone has a calcium phosphate backbone with collagen (protein filler). The basic rule is trying to consume ½ - ¾ g of protein per pound of goal weight for females, and 1-2grams of protein/pound of goal weight in males.
Can I have “too much” protein?
Yes & No –Keep in mind, a lot of body builders consume upwards of 400-500 g of protein daily, so to put a cap, is tricky.
Here’s where it gets SCIENCE-Y. Some studies say its molecular structure allow so that all protein which is unused by the body is flushed out of your system through excretion. Other arguments are that it is just like carbs/fats and the surpluses will be converted into body fat.
The key is YOUR ACTIVITY LEVEL. What can’t be digested & flushed must be USED or will be STORED. What you DO need to be concerned with is absorption limits. Most studies claim that the MAX Protein which can be absorbed per sitting is 30-40grams. Anything more & it's waste, regardless if it's flushed or stored.
Note – in either case, after absorption/usage/storage, any additional protein which is not coupled with fiber or healthy fat can lead to “blockage” in the bowels. So, PLEASE, eat balanced meals.
What About SHAKES?
Liquid foods digest more quickly than solids, and therefore enter your bloodstream at a faster rate. As a result, liquid proteins prove more effective than solids during the hour window following a training regimen when muscle protein uptake increases. Additionally, liquid protein digests easier during workouts and proves less likely to disturb your stomach than solid foods. This quality benefits endurance athletes because carbohydrate and protein drinks enhance performance of endurance activities.
Benefit of liquid protein (powders/ supplements) – Easier source of delivery, can fill in protein gaps between meals in high levels without hassle – can also try puddings, or nut-butter based bars (*be aware of fat, sugar & preservatives with these, however). My fave “protein on the go” snack handful of raw almonds with a small fruit.
What about Pre- /Post- Workouts?
For Pre-Workout: Unless you are performing an endurance activity (*marathon etc) where an “empty stomach” prevents discomfort, I recommend people take in a small meal/snack roughly 200cals of low-fat & protein-rich foods about 20-40 minutes prior. Being slow-digesting, it will keep will you longer through-out the workout.
For Post-Workout / Recovery: Liquids are digested more easily & absorbed more quickly. You want to consume your post-workout meal within 15-45mins following the workout. "Protein shakes" are ideal immediately after a workout due to their fast absorption/digesting abilities for muscle repair & replenishment. According to fitnessleak.com: Consuming your post workout meal or shake more than an hour after your workout decreases immune system recovery by 31%
Hope that clears some questions up!!
^Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, et al. Low-carbohydrate-diet score and the risk of coronary heart disease in women. N Engl J Med. 2006; 355:1991–2002