Know Your Protein

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

A while back I wrote a post called The Truth Behind Protein Shakes. The reason for this post was that many athletes were still confused as to why they were guzzling a/1/uno protein shake daily but still not adding slabs of rock hard muscle and torching massive amounts of body insulation (fat is great at keeping heat in!).

If you did not read that that post I would encourage that you do so. As for right here, right now, I wanted to provide a quick, bullet point style overview about the main concepts behind protein and its role in a high performing body, the myths behind protein and its consumption, as well as make a few recommendations.

So let’s do this so the next time you find yourself puzzled as to why after downing a protein shake your biceps didn’t grow like Pop-Eye’s did on spinach, you’ll better understand why.

Is protein important?

–          Protein is important, and many times protein is thought of as the most important of all macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein, water).

–          While I would argue that all are equally important, protein definitely plays a key role in almost every bodily function including structure (muscle building anyone?!), muscle contraction, immune system function, hormone production, nutrient transport, energy and more. So ya, it’s important.

–          Without adequate protein available, the body will breakdown stored protein (again, muscles anyone?!) in order to complete the functions previously mentioned.

Will protein alone make my muscles HUGE and my stomach RIPPED?!!

–          NO!!! Protein alone will not make your muscles grow. You must apply a stimulus to the body (training) that breaks down the system and requires the body to adapt and grow stronger. Then, protein can be utilized to help repair and grow tissues, including muscle tissue.

–          NO!!! Protein alone will not incinerate fat. While protein is more metabolically active (it requires more calories to utilize protein vs carbs or fat), protein will only help you lose weight when you are in a caloric deficit. With that said, for many replacing processed carbs with protein (less pasta and more chicken for example) will help you consume less overall calorie as well as consume more high quality nutrients, which will aid in losing the midsection jiggle.

–          Protein is a nutrient, not a steroid. While it plays an important role in anabolism, protein will not provide you will slabs of rock hard muscle without the hard work…sorry bro!

–          Ladies, protein will not make you gain manly muscle and neither will training heavy or intensely! So eat some steak, crush some weight and get off the damn elliptical!

Where can I get protein?

–          There are many sources of protein which include animal based proteins (beef, chicken, etc.), fish based protein (salmon, haddock, tuna, etc.), dairy based proteins (milk, yogurt, whey, casein, etc.), egg based protein and vegetable based protein (tofu, soy, protein, etc.).

–          As you can see, there are many foods that contain protein, and also protein supplements such as protein powder.

When should I eat protein and how much should I eat?

–          Protein should be consumed with every feeding (meal, mini-meal, snack) and a good way to measure how much to consume is by using your hand. Click HERE for a guide and visual.

–          The old standby for how much total daily protein to consume is 1g per pound of bodyweight. A better guideline to follow is one that I first heard from Alan Aragon. Alan recommends consuming 1g of protein for every pound of your ideal weight. That means if you are a 150lb male looking to gain 20lbs, you should be consuming at least 170g of protein daily. If you are trying to go from 200lbs to 180lbs, it is recommended to consume 180g of protein daily. Whatever your target weight is in pounds, consume that many grams of protein daily.

There are so many protein powders. Which one is best?

–          Whey stands out as the most versatile protein powder.

–          Casein is another dairy based protein and digests slower than whey making it a decent option when you know you are not going to be eating for a little while (before bed, etc.).

–          For those who don’t tolerate dairy well, egg or vegetable derived protein powders can be used (pea protein, etc….stay away from soy!).

–          No matter the source, make sure that the protein powder is made from whole, natural sources and not loaded with hormones, processed sweeteners or other ingredients that you can’t pronounce. And stay away from weight gainers…just eat more whole food!

–          I like Biotrust Low Carb as it tastes great and is made from quality sources. Other good sources include Jay Robbs and if you don’t have the funds available, Dymatize All Natural Whey is a decent option.

What can I use protein powder for?

–          Protein shakes, DUH!…check out this Protein Shake Construction Guide (your welcome!).

–          Other than shakes, great ways to use protein powder include powering up oatmeal, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, putting it on popcorn, flavoring coffee, making homemade protein bars and more.

–          *Protein powder is a supplement and should be used as so. Think of protein powder as an additional (and sometimes more convenient) way to get your daily needs, not as the primary source!

So there you have it, a short, a simple overview of protein along with a few recommendations. This does not even scratch the surface of details surrounding protein, but hopefully you can see that protein is important, and alone is not going to give you the body of a Greek god or goddess!

Make sure you get enough high quality protein, continue to work hard and…just don’t get sucked into thinking protein is the end all when it comes to achieving results!

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