Your Body On Protein

By Rebeka Lampe

Protein: an essential and vital nutrient to our body; a building block that makes up our muscles, bones, hormones and enzymes. It helps our bodies to recover and, without it, we couldn’t survive. Surprisingly, our bodies do not actually produce the proteins that we need to rebuild and maintain our bodies. Therefore, we must incorporate them into our diet.

Web MD says, “Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a ‘macronutrient,’ meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. But, unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein. This means it has no reserve to draw on when it needs a new supply.”

So, how are we able to get these essential proteins? The obvious solution: eat a high-protein diet…right? Wrong! Too high of a protein diet can be harmful (not to mention useless) when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. So, forget about the 8-ounce steak you just grilled to perfection and continue reading.

High Protein Diets

According to Chrissie Douglas, a certified master nutritional therapist at The Inside Out Nutritional Therapy, it is recommended that both men and women eat 200-600 grams of protein per day (or around 300 calories) for optimal nutrition. This method became extremely popular with what you may know as the Atkins Diet, which emphasizes eating fewer carbohydrates and increasing protein. While this may work short term, too much protein will negatively affect your body. Douglas says, “If the body consumes too much protein the liver will break down the amino acids into sugars. If the body is not using these sugars as energy, these sugars will be stored as fat until needed, contributing to weight gain.”

One important thing to note is that there are exceptions for those who are strength training. The key though is still to be smart and know how much protein you are putting into your body. Douglas recommends eating normal amounts of protein on your work out days (200-600 grams) when you a moderately lifting, and increasing that intake when you are heavy lifting. However, it isn’t necessary to exceed this limit. Douglas says, “amino acids can be recycled by the body to help build lean body mass.” What does this mean for women? WebMD recommends that most active women only need about two servings of protein a day.

High protein diets may be helpful short term but in the long run, they will not sustain you. Your body requires protein just as much as it needs carbs, fats and sugars. Before adding protein into your diet, it is important to become aware of the kinds of proteins you should be eating.

Whole Foods, Supplements and Shakes

Protein can come from a variety of sources: whole foods, protein powders and supplements, though, with so many different kinds out there, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. The numbers of protein powders on the market are endless…casein, egg white, whey, and plant-base just to name a few.  Not to mention the pre and post workout powders and the vast variety of protein bars. Yep, there goes your paycheck.

The good news is that there are many great and inexpensive ways of getting your daily intake of good protein. Lean organic meats such as lamb, fish, chicken and turkey as well as organic dairy products: eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese are great. Christine says protein that comes from meat sources are considered complete proteins,’meaning they contain all the essential amino acids that our body cannot make on its own. Foods such as beans and vegetables are also considered proteins but they are not complete. They must be combined in order to make a complete protein. Lastly, if you have jumped on the quinoa train, which many seem to have lately, it is considered to be a complete protein. However, Douglas says it is a bit misleading because it does not contains the amounts you would find in a meat sources and you would need to eat an ample amount to get what you need.”

If you do choose to take the protein powder route, take some time to find the one that you like best. Some do provide benefits such as quick recovery and added energy. The most popular and inexpensive protein is whey, which is animal based, is easily absorbed and aids in lean muscle mass.  For those with dairy or gluten allergies, there are plant-based powders as well. It is really about finding what works for you.

Another great way to determine how useful or beneficial a protein powder may be is by looking at its biological value. According to Mark Sisson, former athlete and now fitness author, the higher the BV, the greater the proportion of available protein that can be synthesized by the body’s cells. Higher BVs also means more vital amino acids.

The bottom line: Do your research and make note of your diet. Maintaining a healthy body requires a balance and getting enough protein is just one part of that process.

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Categories: Your Nutrition

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