After last week’s blog post about humility which snuck into my blog planning, I have decided to get back on track and today talk about protein.
As one of our Macronutrients it is an essential part of our diet and a lot of our body is made from it.
But what is it and where do we find it?
There is also a war raging amongst dieticians and fitness professionals about we should be eating large amounts of it, or in fact we should be cutting it down.
There are pros and cons to both sides but before I give you my opinion I want to look more closely at protein and what it is made up of.
Protein: What Is It?
When asked, most people will tell you that protein is the stuff that body builders drink from the shakers in their hands for what seems like 24 hours a day.
We have all seen them as they strut around the gym or walking into the office casually swigging protein drinks like they are going out of fashion.
Well those people are right on the whole as what’s being drunk from those shakers is, more than likely protein and it’s even more likely that it is something called whey protein.
We are made up of about 25% protein so you can see just how important a Macronutrient it is.
Protein is used to repair and grow muscles as well as in the creation of some hormones, enzymes, antibodies and neurotransmitters, whilst also being used to help transport substances around the body.
Protein can be broken down further into 25 different building blocks called amino acids. Much like Lego, these blocks (amino acids) can be put together as your body needs to create different things.
Without getting too technical, there are 8 amino acids that are considered to be essential as the 17 others can be made from these.
3 of these essential amino acids are also called Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and they are thought to stimulate the body to increase the production or synthesis of protein.
Protein is also thought to make you feel fuller for longer which is why many diets promote the eating of lean protein.
Where to Get It
Along with swilling it out of shakers at the gym there are many ways of getting protein from out diet, which are:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Beans and Pulses
But not all protein is created equal and I haven’t added supplements to this list either as this is a subject I want to talk about later.
From this we can see that some sources of protein aren’t as good quality as others. This is normally due to the amount of processing that the protein has been through before you eat it. The best sources are those that are as near to it natural state as possible.
When talking about meant and fish it’s also beneficial to not eat non-intensively farmed and have free range or organic instead.
So, line caught salmon is much better than farmed salmon. If you aren’t sure why then think about the differences you would find in your own health if you were free and able swim around to keep fit and healthy as opposed to being cooped up with hundreds of thousands of others in a tiny space and fed junk food.
You’ll also see towards the bottom of the list, canned tuna which for some may come as a shock. I urge you research the process for cooking, cleaning and canning and I promise you that you won’t wonder anymore.
As well as quality to contend with, there is also something called bio-availability to think about. This term essentially means how easy the protein is to digest and is measured out of 100.
I don’t want to go too in depth with this as I know it could be a bit of a turn off but I thought you should at least have some awareness of it.
Supplements are something that I get asked about a lot by pretty much everyone. I also get given advice called “Bro-science” sometimes when people hear what I do for a living.
“Bro-science” is normally wrong just in case you were wondering.
Along with the growth of the fitness industry over the past 20 years, the supplement industry has grown just as big and is now massive and worth billions every year.
Like any large industry I feel they have used our ignorance to get us to part with our money for what amounts to in the large part, snake oil.
By that I mean that they have been selling us supplementation that probably doesn’t work and if it did would give us little or no real difference anyway.
As I step down off my high horse, there are some supplements that do work and that I would use myself. There aren’t many, but one I use every day is protein.
Every morning, I have a smoothie that contains whey protein powder.
Whey protein is derived from dairy products and is very safe to use. In fact, it is one of the most bio-available of protein sources, meaning it can be digested very easily.
There are other forms of protein supplements available and these are casein, (normally taken from animals) soya, pea, hemp, rice or a mixture.
Some are more bio-available than others but as always, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons.
Much has been made of this for the last 30 years. For a long time, it was believed that for a short period of time after exercise your muscle cells were more open to taking in protein to help them repair and grow bigger.
This window was about 30 minutes long (to get the best results) and shouldn’t be any longer than 2ish hours. Very precise.
This is why you still see people running out of the gym downing their protein shakes.
It has since been proven that if you are a regular exerciser, this magic protein window can stay open for up to 24 hours.
So, for me personally this means I have plenty of time to put my barbell away, get a shower and cook some real food for my post-workout protein without noticing any difference.
Try telling this to the shaker wielding “Bro” down the gym though!
There has been and continues to be a debate between professionals about how much protein we should be eating on a daily basis. There are essentially two sides to this which are:
- Low protein low fat and higher grain carbohydrates
- High protein and fat, low carbohydrates
The low protein camp believe that as developed societies have started to eat more protein we have seen a rise in cases of cancer, heart disease, dementia, arthritis, diabetes and every other case of “diseases of affluence”.
It’s believed that the increase in protein consumption and more importantly animal and red meat protein has caused this. This was confounded by an in-depth study called the China Study. It showed a link between consumption of animal protein and the instances of modern day health issues.
But was this causation or correlation?
Meaning, was meat protein the cause or were other factors at play at the same time including the consumption of highly processed carbohydrates? Sugar in other words.
The China Study has informed large swathes of industry opinion for a long time.
The high protein and high fats camp believe that this diet is the nearest to the diet we would have eaten for millions of years before the agricultural revolution which took place around 10,000 years ago.
Humans have evolved to use fat as energy rather than sugar. They believe that we can be reset to do this and insist that we can be more healthy and athletic if we do so.
They believe that modern disease only started to kick in before this time and really only started with a vengeance since the end of the Second World War when western countries were forced to adopt high yield agricultural farming methods to keep people alive.
Livestock was decimated and massive factories built to produce tanks were now converted to process massive volumes of food. Most of which was carbohydrate or sugar.
I firmly believe that we are in the grips of a health epidemic that will not only kill our children before us but also cost vast fortunes in health care as we get sicker and sicker.
I don’t think it’s an accident that this epidemic began and got a whole lot worse as the United States pushed the high carbohydrate and low-fat agenda. As with everything else, the rest of the world followed and our waistlines were no exception either.
The key to a long healthy life isn’t hidden away like the Holy Grail.
In your heart of hearts, you know what it is.
Reduce sugar and carbohydrate. Eat healthy, lean and fresh protein sources, plenty of vegetables and healthy fats.
A little bit of what you fancy won’t kill you.
A little Bit.
Be all you can be
If you need help with your nutrition message me. I’m a fully qualified BTN Nutritionist Coach!