What the heck does protein do anyway? Protein is made up of amino acids. Our bodies produce some amino acids - 'nonessential amino acids' - they are called. The other amino acids needed by the body, 'essential amino acids', must come from the foods that we eat. Complete proteins contain ALL the essential amino acids and are found in animal proteins: meat and eggs. Plant sources are called 'non-complete' proteins because they do not contain all the essential amino acids.
One of the most important roles of protein is to provide support to your muscles. Protein allows your muscles to move properly and helps repair tissue, thus supporting the building and growth of muscles. Protein is also essential to maintain fluid balance an transport nutrients to other parts in your body as well as providing energy along with carbohydrates and healthy fats.
When you exercise and strength train, you are breaking down muscles which need protein to repair afterwards. Training for a race/athletic event? You need 50% more protein than the average sedentary American. Not training for an athletic event or race but are not consuming much protein? You STILL need protein!
But most of us are not getting enough. I have noticed a huge drop in the amount of protein most women are consuming - 30-65g per day! This is hardly enough to help build lean muscle mass, keep you full and promote healthy digestion. Remember your meals should contain a complex carbohydrate, a lean protein and a healthy fat in every meal. Why? Because each nutrient aids in breaking the other down in the digestive system as well as helps keep us full, increases and stabilizes our energy levels and increases our metabolism when consumed frequently (every 3 hours). Only eating protein and no carbs? Your body is not breaking down the nutrients correctly and you will not reach your fitness goals as the non-procseed portions of these nutrients will most likely be stored in your body as something else!
I recently watched the documentary 'Forks Over Knives' and while I agree, Americans do not get enough plant based, non-processed foods into their diet, as a nutritionist and trainer, I can't agree that completely going devoid of animal proteins is the way to go. Animal proteins contain essential amino acids our bodies need and are the only complete proteins. The film chronicles the lives of several overweight and obese individuals who have changed their lives going from consuming extremely high amounts of saturated fats cholesterol laden foods from processed and fast foods, high sugar content and all around unhealthy foods to a plant based diet. Of course, anytime you cut out fast food, foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol and sugars, the person will lose weight, improve health, etc. But from my standpoint, consuming lean animal proteins in conjunction with plant based food, whole grains and healthy fats can be life changing as well as more beneficial to build lean muscle after losing unwanted fat. Need proof that lean protein consumption is healthy> Recently I had my blood panel taken and had extremely low LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and low trigluyceries to boot - my Doctors asked me 'what do you eat - can you help all of our patients?' and I eat protein ALL day long - close to 200grams a day! The goal in the film was to improve poor heart conditions and the obesity epidemic by cutting out all animal proteins. But consuming the right types of proteins (lean, non-processed) along with whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fats will yield even better results.
How much protein do you need? I always harp on ratios - no you don't need to be measuring everything to precise portions unless you are an athlete or fitness competitor - but you should be trying to get adequate ratios of nutrients in each meal. I typically suggest a 40/40/20 (40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fats), a 30/40/30 (30% protein, 40% carbs, 30% fats) or a 40/35/25 (40% protein, 35% carbs, 25% fats) depending on the needs and goals of the person. However, lately I have found most people - even men - are eating less than 25% protein, 60-65% carbs and 15-20% fats. If you are trying to reach a fitness goal eating this way - you won't make it.
A good rule of thumb is at least .65g-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you are exercising 4-6 days a week you should be consuming at least .65g per pound of bodyweight. If you are trying to lose weight and tone, you should be consuming at least .8g per pound of body weight and if you are an athlete, competitor or trying to increase muscle mass, you should be consuming at least 1g per pound of body weight.
If you aren't a big meat eater but need to get in your protein - a great way is with a protein powder. But NOT in every meal. Remember most protein powders have chemical compounds and artificial sweeteners in them which are ok in moderation - but not every meal.
A great protein that myself, my fiancé and my entire family and clients have been using is BodybyVi ViShakes. Everyone has been talking about these and I will admit was very skeptical...until I tried the ViShakes. I have tried EVERY protein on the market and this is the only one I will now use. It is a soy based non-GMO (no genetically-engineered products) protein that literally tastes like cupcakes. There are so many awesome recipes to go along with it (Tiramisu shake with no added calories sound good?) but it tastes AMAZING with just the protein and water. When following a healthy eating style, sugar and sweets are cut out. But having one of these shakes a day is like having dessert- the healthy way!
I suggest to my weight loss clients to try to replace one to two meals a day (they are eating 5-6 meals a day keep in mind) with a 90 calorie protein shake (2 scoops of Vi). When trying to lose weight, increased protein will help you by keeping you full and helping your lean muscle mass to increase with your workouts. Don't like shakes? Try putting a scoop in your oatmeal or some sugar free/fat free pudding. There are so many options!
Want to try ViShakes? http://tarrahspeer.myvi.net
Not sure how to get protein into all of your meals - not a problem- see my quick example guide below:
1/2 cup Cream of Brown Rice hot cereal with 1/2 cup silk unsweet almond milk, stevia and cinnamon
4 egg whites, scrambled with a TBS salsa overtop
1 tsp flax oil over egg whites or 1 TBS avocado
Whole grain tortilla or wrap with 2 TBS hummus and chopped cucumber and tomato
3 ounces white meat chicken
1 tsp olive oil poured over chicken, hummus and veggies)
1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes
Lean Protein/Healthy Fat Combo:
4 ounces grilled Salmon
Roasted Asparagus spears
1 Brown Rice Cake
2 scoops BodybyVi Sweet Cream protein with 1/2 cup Unsweet Almond Milk
1 tsp almond butter on rice cake
1 cup extra lean ground turkey with 1/2 cup Ragu Light No Sugar Added Pasta Sauce
1 tsp olive oil over ground turkey
Roasted Zucchini (serve ground turkey and pasta sauce over zucchini)
EASY - and delicious!
So eat your Wheaties, AND your protein AND your healthy fats - your body will reap the rewards!