PROTEIN 101: The Ultimate Guide to Protein
Reprinted from Muscle Media Magazine
You know that getting your protein is important, but there is more to learn about this crucial nutrient.
Whether you’ve just started focusing on your personal fitness or you’ve been committed to a healthy lifestyle for several years, you’re likely aware that if you’re not following a sound nutrition plan, you’ll just be spinning your wheels in the gym and will see no progress. Many people will spend hours a week finding new exercises to help them develop their lateral deltoid or target the outer sweep of their quad, but they couldn’t tell you anything about nutrients besides what food they eat to make sure it’s included in their meals. Committing some time to learning more about what you’re putting in your body could be the key to helping you maximize your potential and getting the best effort out of your body when it’s time to train.
|For example, it’s a pretty basic fact that you need protein to build muscle but knowing your proteins can be a big advantage for you regardless if you’re trying to lose fat, build muscle, or improve for a particular sport. So pay attention because Protein 101 is now in session!|
What is Protein Anyway?
Protein is an essential nutrient that serves as one of the building blocks for body tissue. It can also be used as a source of fuel for the body, with one gram of protein containing four calories and are made up of 20 amino acids that you can see in the chart below.
|Amino acids are broken down in three categories – essential, conditional essential, & nonessential.|
|Essential (Must be supplied from food). Proteins with all essential amino acids are known as “complete proteins”.||Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Threonine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan, Methionine, Lysine, Histodine|
|Conditional Essential (Limited Synthesis under conditions like infancy or severe catabolic state)||Arginine, Cysteine, Glycine, Glutamine, Proline, Tyrosine|
|Nonessential Amino Acids (Dispensable)||Alanine, Aspartic Acid, Glutamic Acid, Asparagine, Serine|
Benefits of Protein
Protein plays a major role in the growth and maintenance of the human body. It’s the second most abundant molecule in the body (water is the most abundant). The amino acids in protein are used to build and repair muscle tissue that has been broken down as a result of intense exercise or physical labor. Also, it’s needed for the production of blood cells. Protein is the only nutrient that can supply nitrogen for the brain. Protein also can help regulate blood sugar which can be important for those wanting to lose weight.
Types of Protein
Whey Protein – Since this is the most popular, let’s get it out of the “whey”. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).) You’ve likely heard of whey protein since it’s the most protein supplement on the market. Coming from dairy sources, whey is separated out when milk is being converted into cheese. Whey protein has the highest value in branch chain amino acids, or BCAA’s, which can play an important role in building or maintaining muscle tissue. It’s also one of the fastest digesting proteins. You can get whey from milk, yogurt, and of course, in protein powder form. However you choose to get your whey protein, make sure you take it first thing in the morning upon waking since you’ve went several hours without any food. If you choose the supplement route, make sure you understand the different forms of whey.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) – This is a high quality protein that has a concentration level of around 70%. It can also contain carbs and fats. If you’re looking to save money, this is probably your best bet.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) – Whey Isolate is the purest form due to additional processing. WPI’s generally have a 95% concentration level.
Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) – WPH is digested even faster than WPI because it’s broken down from larger amino acid chains into smaller fragments.
Micronparticulated Whey – The advantage to this type is since it’s micronized, it’s much easier to blend with whatever beverage you choose to mix it with.
Casein Protein – Casein is “the other protein” that comes from milk and dairy sources and works as the polar opposite of whey. Whereas whey is a fast digesting protein, casein is a slow digesting that will continue to fuel your muscles for hours. Furthermore, casein can play an important role in preventing muscle breakdown so the hard work your whey has already finished won’t be undone. You should consider casein before bed since while sleeping you will go several hours without eating. Having the casein breaking down over a course of hours will help ensure that you will wake up the next day without your body going into a catabolic state.
The most popular source of casein is cottage cheese but it also comes in cow’s milk, sour cream, greek yogurt, and in powder form. If you prefer to go the powder route, keep these three versions in mind.
Micellar Casein – Micellar is the result of the casein in the milk has beem separated from the lactose, whey, and fat.
Caseinate Protein – Caseinate is made by adding calcium, sodium, or potassium. The advantage of Caseinate is it will be less likely to clump when mixing it and will digest a little faster but it will still take longer than whey.
Casein Protein Hydrolysate (CPH) – Just like WPH, CPH is broken down from larger amino acid chains into smaller fragments so it’s easier for your digestive system.
Colostrum – This is the one that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Colostrum is produced by female mammals late in pregnancy and for the first few days after giving birth and provides antibodies, antimicrobials, and antioxidative factors for their newborn offspring. It used to be the main source for antibodies before antibiotics came along. Bovine colostrum is the most popular form that has been shown to help athletes gain muscle mass, improve anaerobic power, and has an abundance of vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C, E, B12, calcium, zinc, potassium, chromium, and more. Colostrum can be taken any time of the day but post workout may work best with all of its benefits to promote recovery.
Egg Protein – In the old days, some bodybuilders and athletes actually broke eggs in a glass and just turned it up. This was one of the most famous scenes of “Rocky”. Fortunately, we know that there are better ways to take advantage of this source.
There is a belief that you should separate the egg whites from the yolks to get the protein benefits without the extra calories of fat as well as cholesterol risks. What you should know is that if you throw out the yolk, you’re throwing away close to half of the protein that the egg offers. The yolks contain Vitamins A, D, E, and K as well as the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and several more. The yolks also provide healthy fats docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) which are Omega-3 and 6 fats, respectively.
Eggs are normally associated with breakfast but you can use it and reap the benefits any time of the day. Since it’s a relatively low calorie option, many people choose to have it in the evening as well as in the morning. If you insist on using whites only but don’t want to buy a bunch of eggs, you can get egg white protein in liquid or supplement powder form.
Soy Protein – Soy is the most popular protein for vegetarians since it is derived from soybeans. Although it’s risen in popularity in recent years, soy protein has been around since the 1930’s. It’s derived from soybean meal that has been defulled and defatted. You could find it as soy flour, isolate, or concentrate. Soy is also popular for athletes that are lactose intolerant.
Soy protein is actually the stored protein in the protein bodies of the beans which is supposed to be 60-70% protein. Obviously since it would take a lot of soybeans to get the amount of protein necessary to maintain or build muscle, the supplement form is the most popular here as well. Soy would be considered a complete protein since it includes the nine essential amino acids.
Whether you like it in the form of steaks, burgers, roasts, or nowadays in supplement form, beef is where it’s at if getting big is your goal. Beef is harvested from cows, bulls, steers, and heifers. Cuts from steers have a little more fat on them. When it comes to the leanest cuts of meat, go with round and loin cuts. As with other animals, the older the animal, the tougher the meat might be so it is usually what you get when you buy ground beef. Beef provides numerous vitamins like B6 and B12 as well as minerals including selenium, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and absorbable iron.
Beef does have its share of controversy surrounding it. There have been statements made that beef can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and there have been recalls of beef due to E.coli contamination. When it comes to your health, you should talk to your personal physician if you have concerns about adding beef into your diet. If you talk to your doctor and feel beef is ok for you, then it’s great for anyone looking to gain size and strength. You might want to go with this option sparingly for weight loss due to some cuts having higher fat than other protein sources.
Chicken is probably the most consumed food by athletes in several different sports but when you look at the reasons why, you can’t blame them. It’s high in protein, low in calories, fat, and has no carbs. Furthermore, although turkey is best known for having tryptophan, chicken also has an abundance of the amino acid. It also includes phosphorus which benefits teeth and bones as well as selenium which can improve metabolic performance.
Most people don’t consider turkey poultry, and only eat it during Thanksgiving. However, you should have it year round as it’s also prominent in protein. It also has zinc, iron, and phosphorus. Just make sure you don’t go with the pre-packaged, sandwich turkey as it will have more sodium and could be processed, which makes it a less healthy option than a whole turkey.
Whether you choose chicken or turkey, or your goals are to get big or get shredded, consume it in the evening and take advantage of its best known attribute, tryptophan…which is an amino acid known to help you sleep.
The advantages to fish are twofold as they are low in calories and they are high in protein and healthy fats like Omega 3, 6, and 9. Obviously there are many different types of fish options but here are three top choices for you to consider:
Albacore Tuna –Albacore is generally the kind of tuna you see canned, but you should make sure that it is albacore because this is the type that is considered the least likely to contain mercury. You should also make sure it’s canned in water to avoid extra calories.
Salmon – Salmon is popular since it is believed to have a very high amount of Omega 3 fats. There are actually many more tasty ways to prepare it so you can have variety in your nutrition plan while still enjoying the same food. When you shop for it, try to get the wild Alaskan salmon.
Sardines – Named after Sardinia, where they were most prominent, sardines have a high amount of protein and good fats; but is also prominent in Vitamins B12 and D, which promote heart and bone health, respectively.
Now that you are well versed on the types of protein and how each can play a role in your muscle building efforts, you can make adjustments to your nutrition plan and may notice even better results! Commit the time to studying more about nutrition as you have training and you’ll be on your way to being a smarter and better athlete!