Do you have uncontrollable cravings for sweets, breads and fatty foods? Have you lost motivation to complete simple tasks? Have you recently felt depressed ? Feeling like you’re always drained of energy ? Are you struggling to keep off belly fat? Do you suffer from the flu/colds often and does it seem to take forever to recover? Do you have an under-active thyroid ? Are you just plain fed up with how your body looks in spite of exercising 5x/week?
If this sounds like you, you’re certainly not alone. One likely problem is that you may NOT be consuming enough low-fat, high quality protein. This is especially true for a lot of women. I’ve looked closely at the diets of countless women over years, including clients, friends and family, and it’s clear that most do not meet their required protein demands. One reason for this is simple.
Unlike most men, most women aren’t attracted to protein rich foods like pork ribs, steaks, roasts or chicken wings. Instead, they opt for carbohydrate rich foods like potatoes, pasta, rice and bagels which are not only low in protein but, create an internal acidic environment and contain very little water. The implication of eating this way all day will cause blood glucose levels to be elevated for most of the day (especially if these foods are consumed at bedtime). This can cause glucose intolerance over time, resulting in inflammation of the joints, elevated serum cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity and depression.
Why is protein so important anyway?
Glad you asked. First you need to understand that 1/5 of your body is made up protein. Second only to water, protein is the most prolific substance in the human body (for some it might be third, after fat). The cells in our body are basically little protein factories, manufacturing building blocks of protein that we require to support our optimal function and structure.
Protein is also a component of all body tissues including collagen, muscle, keratin, elastin, connective tissue, bone, cartilage and connective tissue. Dietary protein provides our body with amino acids that in turn are used for repairing and building body tissue. Amino acids are also important in sustaining immune system health and acts as a hormonal, enzyme and neurotransmitter regulator. Unfortunately, protein cannot be stored in the body, therefore must be consumed in adequate quantities and at the right times.
How much protein do I need?
This might be one of the most debated topics in fitness today but I’ll offer you some recommendations to determine your daily protein requirements. Basically, your lean body mass, the amount and intensity of exercise that you perform will determine your protein needs. First you need to calculate your LBM (lean body mass). If you’re mostly inactive, simply multiply that number by 1 gram. If you are active and mostly engage in only moderate aerobic activity, multiply by 1.5 grams. For those who engage in resistance training and aerobics (which most of you should be) multiply by 2 grams. That’s all there is to it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a good idea to consume all your required protein at once. Bloating and gas are but a few of the symptoms that protein overconsumption can cause. Try dividing the number you got by 4 or 5 (or how ever many meals you eat) to establish your intake per serving. Consuming this quantity and quality of protein with a reasonable amount of lower-glycemic carbohydrates, you will help stabilize your blood sugar, prevent excessive muscle atrophy as you age, raise your metabolism, stimulate the release of glucagon (fat-burning hormone) and cause a dopaminergic response in your brain which brings you up!
What are the best dietary sources of protein?
There are many dietary sources to obtain protein from, but not all protein is created equal. For example, canned tuna provides about 25-30 grams of protein. But unlike fresh tuna, the canneversion is very denatured and extremely acid forming. Commercial red meat such as sirloin is about 72% fat and provides no omega-3 fatty acids. A large egg provides 6 grams of high-quality protein, but is 67% fat and loaded with arachidonic acid, a fatty acid noted for its pro-inflammatory action! Nuts & seeds are all high in fat. Legumes, lentils and beans are all high in carbohydrates.
Without a doubt, the best choice and the highest quality protein available is whey protein isolate. For those who may be unfamiliar with whey protein, allow me to enlighten you. Whey is the thin, watery part of milk that separates from the curd after coagulation, as in cheese-making. Whey is mostly sugar (lactose) and water, and contains <1% protein, but these proteins, referred to as “whey peptides”, are the finest highest quality proteins known in the world, provided they are not damaged by heat.
Everyone can benefit from the healing and immune system benefits that it delivers but it is even more important if you’re athletic or enbrace active living. Whey protein contains a wide range of dynamic proteins known as “whey peptides” that contain the highest available protein source — higher than soy, seafood,chicken, pork or even eggs.
Whey protein, when carefully processed, is much “cleaner” than commercially available animal source proteins. It is more resistant to free radical damage, exposure to infective microorganisms, parasites, or pathogens. Of course it also mixes well in a beverage and tastes great. Drink as a shake after workouts, as a snack or as a full meal . You can augument your effort by including additional antioxidants, EFA’s and or a vitamin-mineral supplement into the mix.
Many consumers are confused by the choices out there and things get even muddier with the perpetual media hype and marketing nonsense that surrounds these products. In another post I’ll go into detail about how to choose the best protein supplement and outsmart the sometimes unscrupulous nutritional supplement industry.
For now, I hope you realize the importance of protein and take a good look at your current diet. You might be surprised at how low in protein your diet actually is. When you seek wellness you need to cover all bases and wouldn’t it be great if you could significantly impact your life by just giving your body a little more of what it needs?