Ahh yes, one of the most talked about macronutrients. Protein is probably one of the more popular topics of nutrition in the health and fitness space, and for a good reason. It’s essential for life, literally. Taking in an adequate amount on a daily basis will be paramount for your goal, whether that be fat loss or gaining lean muscle. But what makes it so important?
On a Cellular Level
Your body is made up of cells, billions of them. They vary upon the type but anything from skin, organs, muscle tissue, and your heart are created by them. That said, as you read this, millions of cells die, and a million more are regenerated. Protein is used for the regeneration of them.
What happens when protein is eaten, broken down, and digested, the protein molecule itself breaks apart into amino acids. These are the building blocks. There at 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential. There is the argument about there being 22, 2 of them being rare and only found in certain sources. Personally, I don’t know anything about those. Either way, this simply means you need to eat these 9 types of amino acids because your body cannot make them on it’s own.
One thing I cannot stress enough : whole food sources will always reign supreme in my mind for best means of nutrition. That said, it’s great to look at whole food sources such as dairy, poultry, red meat, and vegan options. Specifically these food groups because they provide “Complete Protein” sources. This means they contain all 22 amino acids.
If it can come from a farm, I’m incredibly pro (thank a farmer by the way). Eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt. You name it, I love it.
Piggy backing off of the farm, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese are great sources.
Probably my favorite of all groups. I love me a good steak, ground beef, lamb (gyros), venison, pork, or pork,
I’ve actually never ventured down this rabbit hole, so I may miss one or two items, but to my knowledge, quinoa, soy, amaranth, and chia seeds are all vegan based complete proteins. Non-complete vegan options include beans / lentils, nuts, and seeds.
Like I said, whole food options are king in my eyes, but I’m not one to shy away from supplementation if need by. Sometimes, the convenience of having a shake on your commute just makes life easier. It’s what I do with my coffee in the morning. That said, great supplements for this include BCAA’s, Casein, and Whey Protein.
BCAA’s contain 3 essential amino acids. Often drank during vigorous workouts, it’s thought to help slow the body’s catabolic state. In other words, it limits the amount of time your body is in a catabolic (breakdown) state.
Casein Protein is a protein that is designed to digest more slowly, much like a whole food meal. You may see it labelled as “Slow Digesting” or Slow Assimilation” protein, depending what brand you look at. This is great for meal replacements when you’re not able to grab a whole food meal. It’s worth noting, while high in protein, this can also help contribute to your daily fat and carbohydrate intake as well.
Whey Protein is probably the “household name” that everyone’s heard of. It’s on the shelves in every department store and other health clubs. For a good reason, too. It’s more than well-known now that it’s best to take this after a workout. Reason being it due to it’s higher nature of “cleanliness.” In other words, a majority of the calories in each service is derived of protein. Most servings (1 scoop) top at around 100 calories, and because you get about 4 calories per gram of protein, you’re grossing about 25g of protein per serving. Little to no fats or carbs, respectfully. Plus it digest quickly, meaning it’s absorbed at a faster rate.
The Beauty of it All
I like variety, and having this many options at your disposal creates a great opportunity to learn some combos of food that you enjoy and can reap the benefits of. When you’re looking for a majority of calories, opt for whole foods. For those small gaps in your day when you’re pressed for time, or after you just ran a 5k, shakes are a better option.