Many people look for protein-rich foods to eat in the quest for a leaner body. Since research has shown that an increased protein intake will help the body burn fat and build muscle, people want to know where and how to get their protein each day. Well, we have two choices:
- Natural protein sources (meat/dairy/bean)
- Supplement sources (protein powders/bars).
And 99.9 times out of 100, the real food source of protein is better for your body-inside and out. However, the feasibility of today's professional having the time and ability to just toss some chicken or cottage cheese can be unrealistic. Therefore, supplements are relied on due to their convenience.
Real Food Sources
When it comes to real food sources of protein, meats are generally the most protein dense per ounce. The problem can be that meats are also high in different types of fats. So, choosing the right meat is the key to getting protein without the calories from fat. (Remember, a gram of protein or carbohydrate only has 4 calories while a gram of fat has 9 calories!)
Chicken is generally the lowest fat (and calorie) meat source of protein. And with the prices and availability of chicken in our supermarkets, it's an easy base for lunch, dinner or that mid-afternoon snack.
Fish is another great protein source. Here in the Northwest, we have a nice variety of fishes we can choose from including salmon. Salmon is great for you, but is a little high in fat. While the fat in it is "good" fat, it still has almost 100 calories from fat alone in a small serving.
So, having it once a week is a great way to break up the meat monotony and give your body those good fatty acids from salmon. Beef is another great protein source.
But, as many of you know, it also has a higher level of saturated fats. These can be no-nos for those watching cholesterol so again, choosing red meats once a week is a good idea. People also choose to mix the meats in a recipe. Fajitas are easy to make using red meat or chicken-or both. I really enjoy a small amount of high quality steak, a small chicken breast and some onions and green/red peppers all fried in a little olive oil. Mix that with a little rice, a few almond slivers and a little avocado and you're ready for a great, high protein-high flavor meal! Another great, inexpensive source of protein is eggs.
They're inexpensive and can be eaten in a variety of ways. You can boil them and eat them as a snack the next day. Fry them up and eat them with some whole wheat toast or mix them with rice to add a little protein to that starchy dinner food. Or, you can make egg salad with them. The egg has two parts, the yolk and the white. In the yolk, you'll find vitamins, fat, and 1/2 the egg's protein amount.
The white has the other 1/2 of it's protein content. If you're looking for protein, go with 4-5 egg whites and 1 whole egg. This will give you about 22 grams of protein and around 5 grams of fat. So, when it comes to protein, getting it from real foods is the best. However, if time is a concern, supplements may be the way to go for the busy people out there.
Not all protein supplements are created equal. There are so many powders, brands and bars in a health food store it would take the FBI to figure out which is which. Like real food proteins, you have to see what the protein source is and what else is in the product, to determine which one is best for you. The first step is to identify what your needs are.
Some people need their supplement to have a lot of calories while some don't want a lot of calories. Some want soy protein for it's phyto-estrogen properties while others want a more easily digested, creamy tasting protein like whey. Some people need a lot of protein each day and their supplement must give them 40-50 grams per serving while others need a product that just has 15-20 grams to add to recipes for a protein "boost" in a regular meal
For now, the key to the supplement market is reading and education. Find one that works for you and stick with it for 4-6 weeks and see how your body responds. You don't have to spend a fortune, but you do get what you pay forâ€¦
So you recognize the need for more protein in your diet, as it will help you increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. But how do you get all that protein? In the last issue, we started to discuss protein supplements. Which one is right for you? How do you choose which one will be the right one for your needs? Do you have to spend a fortune on the "high dollar" brands? Let's take a lookâ€¦
There are a variety of sports nutrition companies on the market today selling protein products. Some of the big names include EAS, METRX, Optimum, Pinnacle, and Nature's Best to name a few.
I have personally tried products by all of the above brands and feel they each have something to offer. EAS is one of the biggest supplement companies right now and has great science and testing behind their products.
Depending on what type of product you want, will help you choose which brand to go with. All of the above brands can be purchased at quality like Bodybuilding.com. The company selling it usually does some of the "weeding" of bad products or brands so you don't have to. They also have some staff that can point you in the right direction when it comes to the products or prices they offer. Again, each company offers something different so it depends on what you want as to which brand you go with.
When it comes to protein products you can look for a pure protein source or a drink/snack source. Pure proteins are generally in powder form and may come in a can or jug/tub with a scoop. The protein source can be whey, soy, egg or a mixture of them. The source that's easiest for your body to absorb with the highest biological value is whey.
This is a milk derived protein that is generally low in lactose and has a very light, creamy taste. This can be mixed into yogurt, pancake/muffin mixes as well as other recipes without really altering the flavor.
Soy is a little tougher for the body to breakdown and absorb. It also may have a "bean-like" taste. However, this is a great protein for women due to it's phyto-estrogen content.
This can help with hormone control/regulation for pre- or post-menopausal women. (Next Nutrition makes a great product with Whey and Soy called ISIS.) Nature's Best makess a pure whey product known as IsoPure. This is a great tasting, low lactose, low calorie protein that's easy to mix and tastes great. It is a little pricey but definitely worth it. I highly recommend it! Now if you're looking for a high protein snack, you may look for meal replacement shakes or bars.
While they're called "meal replacements", I'd recommend they only be used a snacks between meals when you're hungry and looking for something easy and healthy. The companies mentioned earlier also make these snacks. EAS has a few different products including Myoplex or Myoplex Lite shakes or bars. They taste good (to most people) and are easy to mix or grab on the go.
METRX was the original meal replacement shake company, but they have fewer flavors to choose from and the bars are a little short in the taste department. There are so many snack bars with different calorie and protein amounts that it really takes some label reading to figure out which one if for you.
A lot of my clients enjoy the Balance Bars. They have a decent protein quantity with minimal sugar (depending on the bar). And they taste great! They are a great choice for something sweet with lunch or that mid-afternoon snack instead of cookies or candy.
Ok, so you have an idea of what you want to buy. You've decided that you'll start using a protein product mixed in with some fruit and water as a morning smoothy, now you just have to go buy one. Go look around at some health food stores and buy a small amount to get the flavor that you enjoy-before buying a year's supply. Good luck and feel free to email me with any more questions regarding protein and protein supplements!