Friday, July 20, 2012

The Scoop On Protein

So lets chat protein. Protein does lots of great things for you body as I’m sure you can imagine, it builds and heals damaged tissues (muscles, bones, skin, and lots of other good stuff.), and it is needed to form enzymes and hormones (used for tons of bodily functions).

Coming from a vegetarian of about 13 years (and a wimpy meat eater before hand), lacking protein in your diet is no fun. As I stated before it is needed for so much, without the proper amounts it takes longer for your body to recover from exercise or injury, and you lack energy.  It has always been a constant battle for me to keep my protein intake up (it is possible without meat, it just takes a lot of work), that’s why recently I’ve started to incorporate chicken (and bacon because it’s so damn delicious) into my diet. But enough about me..

At the other end of the spectrum, eating too much meat also has its negatives. Eating an excessive amount of meat (keep in mind the recommended amount is 6-7 oz daily) can stress out the kidneys, and also can cause a loss of calcium (used to balance the high acidity). But the main concern that I have with eating high protein diets is that most people that do, cut back on carbs. Carbs are your main source of energy, and hold the most vitamins and mineral.

Lets use the Atkins diet as an example (yes I know it's a little outdated, but it is similar to some fitness diets I’ve seen people eating to build muscle). Eating a low carb/high protein diet will get rid of excess fat. However, carbs are primarily used for energy, when they are not available the body converts fat to energy, this process produces ketones (unlike eating carbs). Ketones will fuel your body, but over time can be really damaging to your brain. Essentially you are starving yourself, and forcing your body to find fuel in another way.

So how much protein do you actually need?
20% of your daily intake should come from protein. If that seems hard to figure out, use this equation to find out the grams per day that you need.

Weight (in pounds) / 2.2 = weight (in kg)
Multiply your weight in kg by:
.8 – if you are a low/moderately active meat eater
1 to 1.2 –if you are highly active or vegetarian

So here are my needs to give you an example:
120/2.2= 54.5
54.5 x .8 = 43.6 grams of protein a day

Just to put that into perspective 3oz of meat has about 21g of protein, or 1 cup of dried beans had about 16g.

Since your body does not store any protein, anything more than your daily need is going to just be pissed out. So don’t waste your time or money eating the 200 grams a day like your trainer told you to at the gym.

Another thing to consider is the sources of your protein. Animal sources are the best, as long as you are not only eating red meat (boo for saturated fat). Focus on poultry and fish, and limited red meats. Vegetable proteins (beans, tofu etc.) are great, because they normally aren’t as fatty as animal meats. However you need to eat more of vegetable proteins, because they are not absorbed as easily as animal sources.

Is supplementing amino acids or protein a good idea?
As far as protein shakes and powders, I say go for it.  I wouldn’t substitute it for the real deal, but if you are on the go or a picky meat eater then drink up. Animal protein based powders (whey, casein, or egg) are definitely better (more easily absorbed), however the vegetable based ones are not bad (soy or hemp).

However supplementing amino acids get tricky. When you get down to the digestion of them, amino acids needs specific carriers to cross the intestines and get into the blood for use. When you supplement one amino acid, there will be an excess of that one to use up all of the carriers, which may block the absorption of others (leading to a deficiency of another amino acid). Unless you have a medical reason, I really don’t recommend supplementing any amino acids, instead just choose good sources of protein in your diet.

So do the math and eat what YOUR body needs for protein, and be sure to eat good sources!

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