Let’s talk protein.
Any weight loss program, as well as all exercise programs, rely on a protein-rich diet. Why you wonder?
Well, first off I think that I need to start at the beginning and explain the basics about protein and then build from there.
Importance of protein
Protein is found in every cell, muscle, tissue and organ in our body. The body needs protein for:
- Growth (as in muscles)
- Maintenance and repair of our cells
- Metabolism (as in an increased one)
- To help transport nutrients and oxygen within the blood
- Fight against infection
- And, on a more aesthetic level it is the main nutrient that keeps our hair shiny and healthy, our nails strong, our skin looking fresh and glowing and our bones strong and healthy. (www.cdc.gov/nutrtition.com)
What is protein?
Protein itself is actually chains of other molecules called amino acids. There are 22 amino acids in total in the body. Thirteen of them non-essential, meaning our bodies are capable of making these little guys on their own, and nine which are deemed essential because we need to ingest these aminos through the foods that we eat.
When we eat the right foods, these nine amino acids will get reassembled to form the different types of protein that our body needs. (www.about.com/what-is-protein)
What foods contain these nine essential amino acids?
- And, soybeans provide all nine amino acids and are therefore called “complete proteins”.
Plant sources, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, grain products and many vegetables have some, but not all, of the nine amino acids, and are so termed “incomplete proteins.” When combined, though, it is possible to get all nine without having to eat any animal products (great news for all you vegetarians out there).
A diet high in protein is a very successful weight loss technique, and a tried and true method for fitness-enthusiasts looking to maintain a lean body weight and a high muscle mass.
In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of their daily diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories a day and lost about 11 pounds over the 12-week study – and that was without employing any other dietary measures! (www.msnbc.msn.com)
Worried about what all that extra protein in your body might do to your heart and vessels, though?
No need to. In another study, this time at John Hopkins University, they found that a diet in which roughly a quarter of the calories came from lean protein sources actually reduced blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides better than a traditional higher-carb diet. (www.active.com)
However, if you have any kidney or liver problems it’s best to seek the advice of a nutritionist before increasing your daily protein.Calories from protein affect your appetite control center so you are more satiated and satisfied. Click To Tweet
How much protein should you be taking?
To get the number of grams of protein per day that you should be eating use the following formula:
- If you’re not very active: multiply your body weight (in kg) by 0.8
- If you’re active or pregnant: multiply your body weight (in kg) by 1.3
- If you’re extremely active & in training: multiply your body weight (in kg) by 1.8
- If you’re not very active: multiply your body weight (in kg) by 1.0
- If you’re active: multiply your body weight (in kg) by 1.5
- If you’re extremely active & in training: multiply your body weight (in kg) by 2.0
(Tip: To find your body weight in kg divide your weight in pounds by 2.2)
Easiest way to get protein
Protein powder is the easiest way to introduce 20-30 grams of pure protein into your system. A quality protein powder will have all the essential and nonessential amino acids that your body needs.
Wondering why we would need those nonessential amino acids, when our bodies are already capable of making them on its own?
Well, let me remind you that when we exercise, we place a great deal of stress on the body and need to supplement to offset this stress. The body can’t do it all on it’s own when outside it’s normal parameters – you need to give it some help. This is also true if you lead a high stress lifestyle, or are ill, or do not practice proper nutrition. In fact, the unhealthier you are, the more you need protein.
Protein powder is also convenient and has a very high bioavailability (BV). Foods, especially protein sources, are rated by their “bioavailability” – how useful that food is to the body. The theoretical highest BV of any food source is 100%, an egg being the standard measurement that all protein sources are held to. BV refers to how well and how quickly your body can actually use the protein that you just consumed.
FOOD PROTEIN BIOAVAILABILTY (BV) RATING
Eggs (whole) 100%
Eggs (white) 88%
Lean Beef 69%
Cow’s Milk 60%
Unpolished rice 59%
Brown rice 57%
White rice 56%
Whole Wheat 49%
Soy beans 47%
Whole-grain wheat 44%
Dry beans 34%
White potatoe 34%
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT BV RATING
Whey Protein Isolate 100+%
Whey Protein Concentrate 90%
Rice Protein 59%
Let’s talk protein powder.
Whey Protein Powders
Whey protein is a dairy derived product. It is the ‘leftovers’ after milk coagulates and is the byproduct of the process of cheese making. It is, by far, the most popular of all of the protein powders.
– It has the highest BV rating of any of the other powders
– Easiest powder to find at the grocery store and health food store
-bMixes well with water, juice, milk and milk substitutes
– Is fat-free
There are 3 types of whey powders on the market: concentrate, isolate & hydrolyzed:
Concentrate forms are low in fat & cholesterol, but your body only absorbs 55-60% of it (concentrate has the lowest BV of the whey protein powders). This is also the cheapest powder that you can buy.
Isolate forms are a purer form of protein and have been processed less than concentrate forms. Isolate also has a very high BV rating (100%) and it won’t bloat you or give you gas like the lower quality concentrate will. However, you will pay for these benefits.
Hydrolyzed protein powder is isolate, but with a facelift. The whey protein is cut into smaller chunks called “peptides”. These peptides absorb into your body fast, offering a quick jump-start to repairing those muscles and a very high BV. But this is also the most expensive protein powder. Think of hydrolyzed as your porterhouse steak, isolate as your sirloin and the concentrate as your flank. I love isolate powders personally. But, if you find you get bloated, or feel “too full” after a shake then hydrolyzed is your powder.
- High amounts of protein should not be taken by people with pre-existing kidney problems
- If you have an allergy to diary, consult with a dietician, or your doctor, before taking whey protein
- If you are increasing the amount of protein in your diet, be sure to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day – protein uses a lot of water within the body to metabolize.
Casein Protein Powder
- Milk consists of three main components – water, fats and proteins. The proteins are whey and casein. Casein, however, is structurally different than the whey protein and it is responsible for the white, opaque appearance of milk.
- Casein is extremely slow at digesting
- This makes it the best protein powder for right before bed, or anytime when you are not going to be eating for seven or more hours. A drink with 20-30 grams of casein powder will help prevent muscle catabolism and keep you satisfied.
- Same as the pro – it is slow-acting, so not the best choice for right after a workout, or as a morning meal.
Soy Protein Powder
- Soy protein comes from, surprise, soybeans
- Great alternative for people who cannot, or will not, eat whey protein
- The vegan choice for powders
- If you can, I would recommend staying away from soy protein powder. It has a low BV rating and is high in allergens.
- It has also been researched that more soy we eat, the more likely we can develop allergies to it.
- Soy was once considered a waste product in the soy oil industry and fed to cows.
- If you need to, or want to, eat a vegetarian-based protein supplement, then I recommend chlorella, hemp seed, or spirulina. These three are considered “super foods” because they contain the proper ratios of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat. I, personally, take 3 grams of spirulina a day and 4-6 grams of chlorella (more during the flu season to up my immunity), in addition to an isolated whey protein shake.
Rice Protein Powder
- Standard cooked rice has a protein content of only 5%-7%. To make concentrated rice protein, whole brown rice is ground into flour and then mixed with water. Natural enzymes are then added to break down and separate out the carbohydrates and fibers from the protein portion of the slurry.
- Rice protein is high in the amino acids cysteine and methionine
- Great for vegans
- Other than cysteine and methionine, rice protein is low in the other 6 essential amino acids
When is the best time for a protein shake?
I prefer mine right after my workouts. When you workout you are actually creating tiny microscope tears to the muscle tissue. Because solid food takes time to digest, and I want those amino acids found in protein to build the muscle tissue ASAP that I just broke down, so a protein shake is my answer.
Protein, in particular the branched chained amino acids (BCAA) leucine, isoleucine and valine, are key at re-building the muscle tissue.
Recent research also suggests that there is a 30-60 minute window of opportunity to get the greatest benefit, and since it only takes about 30 minutes for my body to break down the protein chains in a powdered form, this leaves me assured that my shake is delivering the nutrients that I need, at a time that my body needs them most.(www.sportsmedicine.about.com)
What brands do I use?
- Quest – this one contains sucralose, but tastes great with just water. I have also mixed the Strawberry in mny plain Greek yogurt to liven it up.
- Vega – this one is vegan and needs milk, milk sub like almond milk to make it taste good. I also find it needs to be put in the blender with some ice too. This is the cleanest protein powder on the market, however not the tastiest.
- Cellucor – this one contains sucralose and acesulfame potassium. So, not a “clean” powder, but tastes great mixed just with water. All the others need almond milk – or whatever milk sub you drink – to make the shake taste good.
- North Coast Naturals – they carry a whey as well as a vegan formula and it does not taste great in water alone either. Mixed with a milk or milk sub, though, it’s really good.
- Promisal – this is the powder II have used in the past! It tastes amazing in just water. I recommend the soft-serve vanilla, dutch chocolate and the cookies and cream. You can buy this online, or at GNC.
- Devotion – hands down this is the BEST powder I have had in the 20 years of purchasing protein powder. It mixes amazing-balls with water alone. It is creamy, mixes well and tastes amazing.
- One tip though, purchase the one sweetened with stevia. The other, sweetened with sucralose, is super sweet. I much prefer stevia.